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Three Out Of Four. Beecher On Top Again In Class C

29 Mar

IMG_0343Mission accomplished.  Beecher completed their journey of winning three of the last four Class C state titles.  The latest, a 78-52 onslaught of Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian.

The game was decided in the opening eight minutes.  The Bucs outscored the Mustangs 28-9 in the first quarter, and the lead would never shrink down below single digits.

Three state titles in four years.  What’s the key to Beecher’s success? Preparation.

“We don’t think about losing,” said Beecher head coach Mike Williams.  “We prepare to win, and we don’t prepare to lose.  We set a standard that we want to win championships.  It’s important that these kids know how to set goals.”

It has been a playoff run of pure dominance by Beecher.  The single closest game in the post-season was 18 points.  A key to the Bucs’ ability to obtain large leads is their half-court press, which was used again today.  Not only does the press effect teams in the back-court, but if opponents are fortunate to break the press, it stifles their game plan offensively.  NorthPointe shot just 26.7% in the first half, and 30.9 percent in the game, 17-55 overall.

“Pressuring the basketball and putting them (NPC) in situations they haven’t been in before,” Williams added.  “I didn’t see where they got pressured a whole lot, not for an entire game.  I felt comfortable us throwing to the first punch, getting in their face, and not allowing them to come down and do what they wanted to do.”

Williams held high praise for Mustang senior guard Preston Huckaby.  Huckaby serves as NPC’s primary ball handler and scorer.  Preston scored 26 points the game prior in the semi-finals.  Against Beecher, 3-8 for 10 total points.

“Other guys were going to have to make decisions that weren’t use to making decisions,” Williams said.  “So that’s what we wanted to do.”

The Bucs concluded with advantages in the paint, 44 points, off turnovers 18-6, second chance points 14-9, and fast break points 12-0.  Beecher received just six points from their bench, but who needs a bench when your starting five is as a cohesive starting five in the state regardless of class.

Cedric Moten led the way with 24 points, Samuel Toins was 5-10 from beyond the arch for 17 points, Aquavius Burks added 15 points and 11 rebounds, sophomore forward LeVane Blake and six points and 10 rebounds, and sophomore floor general Malik Ellison contributed 10 points and four assists.

Arguably the best player in Buc history was ’13 point guard Monte Morris, winner of two state titles, and currently a starter for Iowa State.  When Morris graduated, the question was, who will be starting at point guard?  The answer, a freshman, 5’7″ Malik Ellison.  With Monte in the stands for the final game and keeping tracks on the season, Malik delivered.

“I take my hat off to Malik,” Williams had of his point guard.  “To step in as a freshman, after Monte Morris.  And he struggled at times last year, in the quarterfinal game I sat him down.  But I never gave up on him and this year he improved so much, and the one things I challenged him to do was do something Monte didn’t do, win a state championship game as a sophomore, lead your team, set the table.  I’m so proud of him the way he has matured, and he’s just a joy to coach.”

Factually speaking Beecher is a community just north of Flint, with a separate school district of their own.  Although the community is not technically Flint, Beecher is often thrown under the same fire when discussing the issues that have plagued Flint for years and Michigan overall.  With the program’s sixth state title, Williams is optimistic about what the future holds for both the program and community, for example simple things like a track for the high school.

“It’s a big old family,” Williams said of the community.  “And it really trickles down to the team.”  “It (title) means everyone to the community.  We just built a track, Beecher hadn’t had a track in 40 years, and I like to think our success had a little bit to do with that.”

With three of five starters returning for next years, the Bucs will be the odds on favorite to repeat.  But Williams doesn’t look ahead nor does he want his kids to.  He tries to instill life-long messages of positivity into his players to prepare them not only on the court, but in life.

“The one thing they get from me, that end of discipline, that end of structure.  In life it’s going to be competition, you have to be ready to compete, you have to know how to prepare,” Williams said.  “You got to have to have an edge, you got to have a chip on your shoulder, that’s they way I prepared these guys.”

Western Crowned Champions in Class A

28 Mar

CBNBnMMUcAAmdA6.jpg-large“Cream always rises to the top, you can shake it up however you want, before the game is over,” said Detroit Western head coach Derrick McDowell, “ball players usually rise to the surface.”

McDowell’s Cowboys did the rise to the top in Class A, and have plenty of ball players.

Western, 26-0, withstood multiple Saginaw Arthur Hill spurts to capture the school’s first ever basketball state championship.

In the biggest game of his life, senior Josh McFolley felt some discomfort in his leg.  His Cowboys were in the midst of a back-and-forth dog fight with Arthur Hill in the third quarter.  Josh re-entered the game, and with his team up 33-32 with under three minutes before the fourth.  McFolley scored the team’s next eight points to conclude the period.  The energy the Cowboys would ride into the fourth.

“I wasn’t going to let any little soreness get me,” said McFolley.  “I knew my team needed me.”

Fellow senior Gerald Blackshear was the recipient of three McFolley assists in the early fourth, as the Cowboys built a commanding 13 point lead at one point.

Arthur Hill would not lie down lightly, but the Lumberjacks could not get the deficit below four.  Western had a response for every Arthur Hill charge  All-state senior guard Eric Davis fouled out of the game on an and-one with 1:34.  SAH did however cut the deficit to as low as four at one point, but junior guard Karim Murray connected on four free-throws in the final minutes to secure the Cowboy hardware.  Dequavion Johnson did hit a three with 12.1 left to place the Hill down four, but the Lumberjacks lost all their timeouts in the process before so.

McFolley paced Western with a team-high 19 points, to go along with six steals, Blackshear added 16 points and 12 rebounds, and Murray contributed 15 points.

“We got production from a lot of people,” added McDowell.

Brian Bowen led the Hill with 21 points and 11 rebounds, and Texas bound Eric Davis concluded his stellar high school career with 15 points and six rebounds.

The win for McDowell hands the veteran coach his first state championship.  Coach McDowell has always been respected in Detroit basketball.  Before his current position at Western, McDowell won multiple city titles as the head man for Detroit Redford.  McDowell noted he often use to share his glory day Redford stories with his team during the season, but not anymore.

“This is my fourth time here, and I finally got it,” he added.  “I’m done with the Redford stories, it’s on to the McFolley, Blackshear, and Neely stories.”

Lost in the press of the day was junior guard Brailen Neely.  He scored just eight points, but at times during the year served at the Cowboys leading scorer, and facilitator.  Neely has seen both the good and bad of Cowboy basketball.  A three-year varsity player, Neely is astonished with the growth of the program.

“It was a process,” said Neely of getting to where he’s at today.  “Freshman year, we we’re young, we had 1 senior, we had a lot of growing to do.  Next year, we thought we had it.  We wasn’t really listening and it showed in our game.  This year we were all on Coach McDowell page.”

The 2014-2015 season for Western can be divided into two ways, before January, and after January.  Before January, the aforementioned McFolley and Blackshear could not participate following transfers from Mt. Clemens.  Despite not having two division one recruits on the floor, Western stood strong, 9-0.  Contrary to popular belief, Coach McDowell was adamant about his belief Western was a state championship contender without Josh and Gerald.

“I had all the pieces anyway, those were just extra pieces,” McDowell said.  “We weren’t looking for them to come in and be Batman and Robin.  We had enough to win.”

Coach McDowell’s persona on the sideline is of a strict general, however, his players finally managed to force their coach show some emotion.  When it was for certain his team would receive the trophy, he displayed the often unknown lighter side of him.  To the joyous reception of his players.

 

Ford and Western Represent PSL In East Lansing

28 Mar

2d725adFor the first time in a league with as much decorated tradition as the Detroit Public School League holds, 2015 might be the most historic.  Two teams will represent the league in East Lansing for state championships, Western in Class A, and Henry Ford in Class B.

Western, the state’s number one ranked team, won the city championship this season, and have met few teams that can match the Cowboys’ combination of depth, height, and skill.

Ford on the other hand certainly has had to claw and fight their way to Michigan State’s campus.  The Trojans went just 5-4 in league, which included a 72-55 setback to Western January 27th.  In the playoffs, however, Ford has played with greater poise and confidence.  After narrow wins against both CMA and Community in the district tournament, Ford outlasted defending Class C champion Consortium, and Class B first ranked New Haven in consecutive games to secure a spot in East Lansing.

bildeThe opportunity present for the schools is also significant because of the coaches that roam the sidelines, Western’s Derrick McDowell, and Ford’s Ken Flowers.  Flowers, a ’96 graduate of Detroit Redford, was prepped by McDowell in a Husky uniform.  And when McDowell departed Redford following the 2005 campaign, Flowers assumed the role of head coach until 2007 when the school closed.  Both Flowers and McDowell guided the Huskies to two separate Class A final four appearances, ’04 and ’07.

Flowers admits the transition was difficult from Redford to Ford, considering the two were bitter west side rivals for years in the city.  Still Flowers has been able to break lines which use to divide both schools and communities, but believes basketball extends far beyond the lines.

“It’s a blessing,” said Flowers.  “It’s big for me coming from Redford to Henry Ford.  That community is huge over there.  I’ve been getting e-mails and calls the last two weeks from Henry Ford alumni all the way back to ’71.  It’s amazing how basketball can bring a community together like this.”

Ford plays Godwin Heights Saturday, and Western takes on Arthur Hill.

Godwin Heights Edges Out Milan 70-64 For Spot In Class B Final

27 Mar

IMG_0303Down goes number one.  There will be a new recipient for the Class B crown following Wyoming Godwin Heights’ 70-64 victory against defending class champion Milan.

It wasn’t pretty, but there are no style points this time of year.  The Wolverines shot a porous 32.9% field goal percentage the entire game, 6-23 from beyond the arch, and 23-70 overall.

Fortunately for Godwin Heights, shots fell in the most important time, the fourth quarter.  With the game tied at 57 and three minutes remaining, Godwin went on a 8-2 spurt to seize control from Milan.  Six of those eight points were junior guard Leon Redd’s.  An and-one three point play, and then a cold blooded trifecta to place Godwin up six with under a 1:30 to play.  Often the case in that situation, a player would be told not to take the shot, but to work the clock and draw a foul.  However, not under first year head coach Tyler Whittemore, his players always have the green light.

“Told him to shoot it,” said of Redd’s shot.  “He’s a tough kid, confident, he knew he as going to make that shot, I knew he was going to make that shot if he got the ball.”

Redd scored 12 of his 19 points in the final stanza of play.  The senior combination of Delaney Blaylock and Mike Williams also had crucial efforts on the night as well.  The 6’4″ Williams was matched-up against Buffalo bound 6’7″ Nick Perkins, Nick scored 21, but scored just six points in the fourth and was 8-19 from the floor.  Williams concluded the contest with double-double of 13 points and 13 boards, nine of which were offensive.

“He’s been guarding the other team’s biggest/best player and most physical players,” Whittermore said of Williams.  “Being only 6’4,” but with the biggest  hear that’s the biggest thing that he does.  Plays hard and moves his feet quite well, and he’s able to get above the rim.”

The Wolverines out-rebounded the Big Reds offensively 25-19.

“We work hard in practice on offensive rebounding,” said Blaylock.  “Rebounding is just what we do.”

For Blaylock, he was part of the Wolverine backcourt that limited future Youngstown State Penguin guard Latin Davis 17 total points on 8-19 shooting, and five in the fourth.  Davis holds state-records for three pointers made in the championship round of play, which he accomplished just last year.  Davis was a major assignment for the Wolverines coming into play.

“Just keeping turning them back and forth,” said Whittermore.  “Getting the ball in other guy’s hand, had them make plays, see what they could do with it.”

“We had five guys guard him, deny him when he doesn’t have it.  Help the helper.”

Both Williams and Blaylock were just sophomores the last time Godwin Heights made a Breslin Center appearance, 2013, a loss to Detroit Community in the semi-finals.  The Wolverines face Henry Ford representing the Detroit PSL for Class B supremacy Saturday night.

Balance Leads Arthur Hill Past Everett 73-61 In Semi-Final

27 Mar

IMG_0299Balance, balance, and more balance.  These were the words to describe the performance on display by the Saginaw Arthur Hill Lumberjacks in the Class A semi-final against Lansing Everett.

Four different Lumberjacks tallied double-digit points, Eric Davis with 20, junior guard Billy Burton 18 points on four three pointers, sophomore forward Brian Bowen 15 points, and Dequavion Johnson added 11 points.

“All of us are capable of scoring 20,” said Texas bound senior guard Eric Davis.  “Some nights it’s probably my night, Brian’s night, Billy’s night, so you never know game-by-game.”

After holding a slim three point half-time advantage, the third quarter was dominated by Arthur Hill.  The Lumberjacks outscored Everett 23-13 paced by Bowen with eight.

Head coach Greg McMath draws on experience to illustrate the importance of third quarter play.

“I felt the last two years when we got put out the tournament by Saginaw High they dominated the third quarter.  Every drill we had the second-half of practice was just go hard.”

Everett has their own high-major college talent in 6’10” Oregon commit Trevor Manuel.  However, Manuel found little success against the Lumberjack defense, a total of 13 points.  Manuel’s inability to find a consistent rhythm was in large part the work done by football prospect Willie Rodgers, a 6’4″ sophomore defensive end.  Further illustrating the depth of Arthur Hill.

“I had a meeting with just the other 10 guys on the team,” coach McMath said referring to Davis and Bowen.  “And I told them if we’re going to make a run, if we’re going to win a state championship, it’s going to be on you guys.”

“These two (Bowen and Davis) always get the press and they deserve it, but it’s a total team effort.”

McMath returns to his first state tile game since capturing the Class A crown in 2006.  The game is also special for Davis, who in his first three years of high school had not gone past the district round.

“I’m 32 minutes away from winning a state championship,” said Davis.  “And I want to go out a winner.  This is my first time being here, and I always say ‘better late than never.'”

Beecher Routs Horton 71-43. Advance to Class C Title

26 Mar

IMG_0286Sam said “I am,” and Horton heard his swish.

Flint Beecher’s Sam Toins has had the Breslin Center on his mind for well over a year.  Toins’ Bucs suffered a heart breaker a season ago in the quarterfinals.  The senior shooting guard swore to himself and team that would not be repeated in 2015.

In the team’s 71-43 dismantling of Hanover-Horton in the Class C semifinal, Toins led the Bucs with a game-high 20 points, including five threes, four of which occurred in the first-half.

Not too often is the case a game of this magnitude is decided in the opening eight minutes.  However, the Bucs are no ordinary team.  Beecher outscored the Comets 23-3 in the opening period of action.  Horton found difficulty managing the Buccaneer half-court trap.  Beecher forced nine Hanover turnover in the first quarter, and 21 overall.

Coach Mike Williams’ team relies heavily on pressure to gain an advantage in games.

“We want to establish a tempo,” Williams said.  “And by coming out and some  these kids have never been in these situations before.”

Williams compares his team’s game-plan similar to a fight.

“You get into a fight, you want to throw the first punch, and throw the last punch,” Williams stated.  “So it doesn’t matter you win or lose you want to gain the respect of your opponent.”

If the Comets were fortunate to break the Beecher trap, Horton found little success in the half-court.  With a 36% field goal percentage compared to Beecher’s 51% field goal percentage, Horton had little to no room for error on the offensive end of the floor.

In addition to Toins’ performance, the Bucs had a well-rounded performance throughout the roster.  Senior forward Cedric Moten added 18 points, sophomore forward LeVane Blake added nine points and eight rebounds, while sophomore point guard Malik Ellison found success facilitating the Beecher attack, limiting turnovers, and applying on-ball pressure.

The win places Beecher into the Class C state championship game for the third time in the past four years, Beecher won state titles in ’12 and ’13.  Coach Williams also emphasized following the game he has lost as many state championships the same amount he has won.  Drawing on the invaluable amount of experience had led Williams to master the art of preparation.  Beecher’s special “championship practices,” involve grueling hours of sprints and scrimmages.  According to Coach Williams, it’s moments like this that have helped Beecher gain a state-wide reputation of excellence, and foster a sense of connection between the coaching staff and players in pursuit of a common goal.

“If you can’t handle me (Williams) in practice, when the pressure is on in the real game, they you won’t be able to handle it,” Williams said.  “But if you can handle me in practice, and you can get through.”

Williams’ goal for Saturday is to leave with “tears of joy.”

Western and U of D Advance Following Quarterfinals

25 Mar

IMG_0270Western Rolls Past Ypsilanti

Detroit Western International continues to create history after each win in the playoffs.  From the first city title since 1922, and district and regional crowns, the undefeated Cowboys are heading to East Lansing.

Western outmuscled Ypsilanti 58-37.  Facing a diminutive Community frontline in which the tallest player was listed at 6’3,” 6’8″ senior forward Gerald Blackshear scored 16 points, and dominated the paint with 16 rebounds and three blocks.

For as much as Western’s defense stifled Ypsilanti, the Cowboy offense didn’t come as quickly.  The Cowboys shot less than 30 percent in the first quarter, and seemed one-dimensional with a reliance on Blackshear’s offensive putbacks for points.

Western, however, did begin to gain separation from Ypsilanti in the third quarter.  Senior guard Josh McFolley scored 10 of his game-high 19 points in the third quarter, and the Cowboys would lead comfortably the remainder of the contest.

Winston’s Heroics

U of D Jesuit’s Cassius Winston continues to awe and amaze.  This time in front of 6,500 attendees, Winston poured in 34 total points to lead his Cubs to the Breslin Center for the second time in consecutive years.

Winston’s last two points were the most important.  After Clarkston had just tied the game with 12 seconds left at 54, Winston completed a successful give-and-go from classmate Obi Duru to streak in for a lay-up at the buzzer for the Cub victory.  Winston was met with a stampeding student section for his performance on the night.

Video of Cassius Winston’s Game Winner

The Rematch

With their respective wins, U of D Jesuit and Detroit Western will meet this Friday at the Breslin Student Event Center in East Lansing for a spot in the Class A state championship game.

The two teams have met before.  In Operation Friendship to conclude the year, Western defeated U of D 58-49.  However, the contest can be taken with a grain of salt.  The playoffs started for both teams less than four days following the game, and each squad either held back or sat key pieces to their teams.

Five State Quarterfinal Storylines

24 Mar

The final week of the season is here, so start it off right.

Premier Matchup of the Night

Muskegon meets Lansing Everett in a highly anticipated contest between Michigan’s two best senior forwards/centers, Deyonta Davis and Trevor Manuel.  Davis won Mr. Basketball just a day prior to the game, while Manuel placed third.  Davis is committed to Michigan State, and Manuel will continue his career at Oregon.

Will Arthur Hill Make the Breslin?

Eric Davis placed second in the Mr. Basketball voting, and while Deyonta has one Class A ring, Eric has never been to the Breslin Center before, let alone a district championship prior to this season.  Arthur Hill has cruised past opponents in both district and regional play.  The lone remainder in their way is Walled Lake Central, led by junior standout guard Walter Kelser.  The Vikings have managed to beat two state-ranked team along the way in the playoffs, rival Walled Lake Western, and then Holly for the regional championship in a defacto road game.

Your Point?

U of D Jesuit meets Clarkston in one of two quarterfinal games at Calihan Hall.  Jesuit’s Cassius Winston, is among one of the premier floor generals in the country for the junior class.  Winston has been to the Breslin Center before, while Clarkston floor general a year ago wasn’t even in high school.  Freshman point guard Foster Loyer plays with poise beyond his years for the Wolves, and is coming off an impressive 35 point performance in the team’s victory against Macomb Dakota.

Potential Upset

Ypsilanti exercised some demons, defeating Romulus in their regional round, the same Eagles team that ended the Grizzlies’ season last year.  Despite not carrying the amount of talent as in year’s  past, the Grizzlies are not to be taken lightly in March with the back-court duo of Corey Allen and Avery Williams.  Ypsilanti meets Western as heavy underdogs, however, it isn’t called March Magic for nothing.

Contrasting Rosters

Henry Ford has had to fight and crawl for three of their four games in the playoffs, and will need another one against New Haven for a trip to the Class B semi-finals.  Ford’s tallest player is 6’4″ Western Michigan bound Josh Davis.  However, Davis is not a center, Josh thrives on the perimeter will his silky smooth jump shot.  For the undefeated Rockets, four of their starters read 6’4,” 6’6.” “6’10,” and 6’10.”  New Haven struggled just to reach the quarters, the Rockets rallied from a seven point deficit with just 40 seconds remaining to force overtime and eventually defeat Detroit Osborn.  The very same Osborn team Ford handled relatively easily.

Freshman Foster Loyer’s Career High 35 lead Clarkston Past Dakota 63-58

19 Mar

IMG_0257And a freshman will lead them.

It seems a script made for a Hollywood production.  A freshman, leading an undefeated team with championship aspirations, in a highly anticipated meeting between two state top ten teams.

Clarkston freshman floor general Foster Loyer scored more than half his team’s 63 points, 35, in the Wolves’ regional final victory against MAC Red Division champions Macomb Dakota (21-3).

Foster scored 13 of his total points in the final period of play, and the Wolves needed every last one of them.  In a game of two evenly matched teams, there was little separation.  Until the fourth quarter, the largest advantage any team held was five points.

The Wolves built an eight point advantage twice in the middle of the fourth quarter.  However, uncharacteristic Clarkston turnovers and mishaps propelled a Dakota charge.  Junior point guard C.J. Marshall scored scored six points in an 8-0 run to put the Cougars down one exactly half-way through the fourth.

“They changed up their defense,” Loyer said of the Dakota spurt.  “Put the trap on us and worked pretty well against us.  Had some careless turnovers but we finished through.  That’s all that matters.”

Dakota even held a one point advantage at one point with under three to play.  Clarkston (24-0) needed to make a stand, this time it wasn’t Loyer, however, senior Andrew Myers scored five straight for the Wolves and gave the team the lead they would not relinquish the remainder of the contest, up two with 2:12 to play.

Now Clarkston needed to connect on free-throws.  Loyer shot 10 free-throws in the final eight minutes, and made eight of them, four of which in the final minute.

Loyer, son of former Piston interim coach John Loyer, said free-throws are an aspect of a game he takes great pride in, and he practices them every day.

“(I) try to make 50 free-throws at least every day,” Loyer said.  “Free-throw line wins basketball games.”

Head coach Dan Fife had high praise for his freshman point guard’s performance in a filled to capacity crowd.

“It’s hard to imagine he’s a freshman,” said Fife.  “It’s incredible to think a kid that poised can play that composure in this kind of environment, cause I don’t think he’s played in anything like this.

On the roster sheet, Dakota clearly held an advantage athletically.  A 6’4″ guard, and four 6’6” plus forwards the Cougars rotated through during the game.  On top of the Cougars athleticism, Dakota also has one  the premier sophomore guards, Jermaine Jackson Jr.

Jackson scored 14 points, but took well over 20 shots to reach that plateua.  In a match-up of two promising underclassman point guards, it was Loyer’s night.  On a key rebound in the final minutes, Jackson attempted to get an easy layup, however, Foster was there to thwart a would-be Jackson two pointer, only a microcosm of Loyer’s dominant night.

“Really wasn’t ready to block it,” Loyer said with a smile.  “Ball came my way so I did what I could.”

Following a rugged regional championship, Clarkston has six days to prepare for Catholic League Champion U of D Jesuit (21-3).  The Cubs have their own stud point guard in junior Cassius Winston, whose scored at least 20 point in each playoff game for U of D.  Clarkston last appeared in the Class A state quarterfinals in 2011.

Western Advances To Regional Semi-Final 65-55 Over East English Village

17 Mar

IMG_0246This is what Josh McFolley came to Western for.  To win and lead.

Last season, McFolley was a key component on a Mt. Clemens team that reached the Class C quarterfinals.  Now as a senior, Josh is the primary leader of a Western team that was once a dormant program of the PSL.

“I’ve been in this position before,” McFolley said of his team’s position in the state tournament.  “I know how to control the team, calm things down a little bit, and the coaches keep us calm too.”

In the team’s 65-55 defeat of East English Village at the Sterling Heights regional semi-final, Josh scored 19 points, hauled in seven rebounds, and assisted on four Cowboy baskets.  For as good as he was, Josh surprisingly didn’t lead the team scoring-wise.  That was held by junior guard Brailen Neely, with a game-high 22 points.

In their short time together, Neely and McFolley have built a strong relationship among one another now reaping rewards on the court.

“We talk about this before every game,” McFolley said of him and Neely.  “Talk about it during practice, what we got to do, ever since day one we’ve been together.  We know we have to work together.”

McFolley struggled in the first-half, connecting on just one of his first five shot attempts.  However, Neely was there to pace Western with 11 points in the opening 16 minutes.

Western held a slim one point advantage at intermission.  Then, it was McFolley’s turn.  Josh scored 11 of the Cowboys’ 21 third quarter points, including six straight at one point.

“I rushed a little bit in the first-half,” McFolley said, “kind of slowed me up a bit.”  “Then the coaches told me just to stay composed and I was expecting it in the second-half too, so I managed to play through it.”

Western knew the game would be an up-and-down affair.  In the first meeting of the year, the two squads combined for 149 points.  Just as it was in January, this game would be dictated by guards.  Three Western Cowboys standing 6’8″ scored just 10 points, and EEVP’s two primary forwards scored combined for 15 points.

The one Bulldog that found any form of success against Western was 6’3″ junior guard Kamari Newman.  Newman scored 22 points, and seven off free-throws.  Yet no other Bulldog scored more than 12 points.

“That was the key,” McDowell added about the team’s defensive strategies.  “Hold the rest down, we knew Kamari (Newman) would get his, but basically hold the rest down.”

A three-ball by Neely gave Western their largest lead of the fourth quarter, 59-48 exactly half-way through the period.  However, a desperation surge by East English placed the Bulldogs down just five with 1:50 in regulation following a Newman three pointer, his only basket of the final stanza.  Despite inconsistent free-throw shooting in the final minutes for Western, EEVP’s could not connect on challenged perimeter jump-shots, the Bulldogs went scoreless on the team’s final five possessions.

East English concludes the year with 16-5 overall record.  The Bulldogs have reason to be optimistic for next season, as just one player graduates from the team’s nine-man rotation.

Western improves their record to 22-0, and have a date with Warren De La Salle Wednesday night in the regional semi-final.  Josh is familiar with De La Salle’s style of play, but remains confident in his Cowboys.

“I know they’re a pretty good team,” he said.  “Pretty scrappy team.  So we just got to play our normal game and continue to play hard and we’ll get the win.”

 

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