Western Seizes Operation Friendship 58-49 Against U of D Jesuit

7 Mar

Number one ranked Detroit Western withstood a valiant U of D Jesuit second-half charge to claim the school’s first ever Operation Friendship championship.

Trailing 41-29 with 4:40 remaining in the third quarter, Jesuit junior point guard Cassius Winston decided to do what he does best, make plays.  Winston ignited a 10-2 spurt the next two minutes to close the Cub deficit to as low as four at one point.  Winston scored 10 of team-high 27 points in the third.

“We didn’t do a good job of containing Cassius,” Western head coach Derrick McDowell said.  “We let him roam free, and let him get angles.  You got to stay flat, you can’t shade him.”

Winston’s opponent on the day but Summer AAU teammate, Brailen Neely, matched Winston’s third quarter performance with his own in the fourth.  Neely connected on two threes, and poured eight of Western’s total 13 points in the final period of regulation.  Neely finished with 15 on the afternoon.

Western was able to somewhat nullify Winston in the fourth, only two fellow Cubs scored in the stanza.  Also, no U of D Jesuit player not named Winston scored more than seven points, Cedric Mutebi and Gary Collins each had six.

The Cowboys had greater balance compared to Jesuit.  Senior and U of D Mercy commit Josh McFolley only scored five points in the second-half.  But 16 of his Cowboy-high 21 were in the opening 16 minutes.  Josh has a reputation as a elite three-point shooter, but four-five times on the day beat his man off the dribble and finished at the rim.

“Coaches told me to attack the rim,” said McFolley.  “The last couple games I felt I’ve struggled with my jump shot a little bit.”

The Cowboys have debatably the two best perimeter shooters in their respective classes on the court at the same time.  Coach McDowell likes the opportunities and flexibility to have more than one shooter on the court to challenge defenses.

“When you got McFolley (Josh) going, and then you got Brailen (Neely) going, then you got to pick you poison.”

“You’re finally seeing the flow with Josh (McFolley),” who sat the first semester, “and everybody.  Their both playing off each other.”

For as much guard talent in the game, Western 6’8″ senior center Gerald Blackshear completely dictated the interior.  A future U of D Titan, Gerald scored 14 points and hauled 16 rebounds.  The lone obstacle in Gerald’s path was 6’7″ junior Ike Eke.  Jesuit’s other big Greg Eboigboden suffered an injury with 7:04 left in the first, and left the game immediately, his probability for the playoffs is unknown.  Regardless, Blackshear was able to capitalize against U of D with just one of their 6’7″ sophomores.

“I think I was just playing harder,” Blackshear said following the game.  “They were playing pretty hard, I was just playing harder.  I wanted it more.”

Operation Friendship was re-installed following a one year absence.  Coach McDowell, winner of multiple PSL championships, last appeared in the Operation Friendship as the head man for Detroit Redford during the 2005 campaign.  The event draws teams from two distinct leagues in the Metro-Detroit area, and determines the real city champion.

“I like playing Operation Friendship,” McDowell said, “this was a good game for us.”  “I think it’s good for the Catholic League, I think it’s good for the Public League, it’s good for the city in general.”

Both U of D and Western received first-round district byes in their respective brackets.  U of D (17-3), will play the winner of Mumford/Renaissance Wednesday.  While Western (19-0) takes on the winner of Cass Tech/Pershing Wednesday as well.


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