I realize this post is a little delinquent, but I guess I will use the excuse that we have been busy preparing for a rigorous conference schedule. With that said, we had an outstanding Holiday Tournament December 29 and 30. We opened the 4 team tourney hosting Cranbrook. Cranbrook is a much improved team with good size. They have two new transfers from Detroit and there is no doubt they will win many games this season. Once again, we had them on tape vs. Andover, so we knew exactly what we were getting ourselves into and what they would do. We put together a good game plan and the kids did a great job executing. We won the game 60-43. We went into halftime leading 32-15 behind a strong 2nd quarter effort, holding Cranbrook to 3 points in that quarter. We have hung our hat on tough defense all season and this game was no exception. Joe Baker lead us at halftime with 18 points and ended the game with 35, a career high for him. Garrett Matthews had 7 and Steve O'connell finished with 6.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the tournament, Royal Oak Shrine was fighting Hazel Park for win in a tough game. Shrine eventually won by 3. The Tournament Championship was set for the Wednesday, December 30...Clawson vs. Shrine.
We know Shrine very well. Not only is their Coach Mike Massucci a close friend and mentor of mine, but we scrimmaged them many times in the summer and many of their best players spent a lot of time in our gym in the off season participating in our "open gym" sessions. They are good kids playing for a good program who shoot and play hard. I knew no matter what would happen, we would be in for a fight.
We had a very good crowd for the game and the environment was great! By the time halftime had hit, we had a strong lead - 24-12. I was very happy with the way the boys executed our defensive game plan on their shooters and we were playing hard. So as we went into the locker room, we were in the same situation we had been in many times. Up by a significant margin, plenty of momentum...now what will we do with it? We have had trouble all season "putting teams away" and now was the time. Well, I was obviously the only one with that in mind, because we quickly let them back in the game. Of course their ability to get back into the ball game was greatly enhanced when a few minutes into the 3rd quarter, Joe Baker got his face bounced off the floor and came up with severely loose tooth and blood everywhere. When he left the game we were up 12 and by the time he came back with 4 minutes remaining in the 4th, we were up 3. It came down to a free throw battle at the end of the game. I have written before about our success at the free throw line and this game was no exception. We went 14-14 in the 4th quarter from the free throw line and closed them out at the line and won by 3. It was a hard fought second half and I give them credit for clawing back. But I give our kids even more credit for staying mentally tough and making their free throws. Many teams would go 7 or 8 or 9 for 14 and lose that game. When you go 14-14 and 24-28 for the entire game, you're going to win that game often. In the quarter, Dominic Davis, Joe Baker, Tyler Marwin and Garrett Matthews made key free throws. Joe finished the game with 19 points, Rob Feeman had 12, Tyler Marwin had 9 and Garrett had 8.
We won the first annual Trojan Holiday Tournament, receiving a beautiful trophy. Garrett Matthews and Rob Feeman were named to the All-Tournament Team and Joe Baker was named MVP, scoring 54 points in two tournament games. That took us to 6-0......
The next week brought upon conference play. When I think of conference play, I think of Coach Izzo and Michigan State. They play their preseason schedule and when they get to Big Ten Conference play, every game is a "dog fight". That's how I feel our league will be. The first game of the season we played Marine City for our first conference win, but with that long behind us, we were looking at our game on January 6 vs. Lamphere as our first conference game. Not only as our first conference game, but probably one of the toughest ones. Some believed Lamphere to be one of the favorites to win our conference, myself included. They have good shooters, decent size and a good coach. We saw them on film and maybe my view changed a bit. I knew they were very vulnerable and beatable, but on the flip side of that they have a player who has scored 30+ and 40+ this season and averages about 25. He is probably one of the top three players in our league. I knew winning would take a lot and would not be easy.
We started the game playing probably our best basketball of the season in the first 13 minutes of the game. After those 13 minutes we were leading 36-15. Unfortunately the first half is 16 minutes long and the game is 32. We had a lapse of the final three minutes of the first half and let them score 6 straight and we took a 36-21 lead into halftime. Lamphere continued to hang around and we couldn't quite put them away...at the end of the third, it was 48-36. Lamphere continued to battle in the 4th, but so did we. We shot a lot of free throws in the 4th again, 21, and made 16 of them. Our strong showing at the FT line once again allowed us some breathing room and we hung on for the win, 70-55. Our kids played hard and got a very important conference win. Any win is great, but one against a team that very well will be at the top of conference is even better. Joe Baker finished with 27 points, Rob Feeman had 11, Tyler Marwin had 8, Garrett Matthews with 8 and James Steffen finished with 8. We distributed our scoring very well and that helps a great deal.
The great news is that we got a win, the bad news is that we had one day to turn around and prepare for tough Clintondale team in their gym, which is possibly the most hostile environment in the conference. We spent Thursday watching film and putting together a game plan for them. Clintondale is the two time defending champion of the MAC Silver conference, so you know they are no charity case.
By reputation, Clintondale is very big, very athletic and very physical. That reputation held true Friday night. They start two Division I football players...one of them being 6'6" - 280 lbs. We knew they were going to be tough, talk some trash and try to get us out of our game. I talked to the kids about playing with great character and letting them do the talking and us do the scoring. We did a decent job of staying quiet and playing, but we didn't do a great job of defending them. Soon after tip off I realized we were playing a team we were definitely better than. But we did a very poor job of defending them in the first half and allow them to stay with two at the half, 32-30. Needless to say, I was not happy in the locker room at halftime...my dry erase marker fell victim to quick death against the shower wall (RIP Sharpie!). I made it clear to the kids that if we want to win a conference championship we cannot have lapses like we just had.
They came out in the second half and started to wake up and respond a little bit. Unfortunately we suffered a major blow in that quarter, losing Rob Feeman to a completely seperated shoulder. He was in some serious pain and quickly was in the back of an ambulance on the way to Mt. Clemens General. That evening he required full sedation to place his shoulder back in and it actually took two seperate tries for it to stick. Not a fun Friday night. I can report today that Rob is essentially pain free right now and scheduled to see an orthopedic surgeon tomorrow to find out the prognosis. We are hoping for the best. As my wife said to me that night, Rob injured himself in typical "Rob fashion", completely sacrificing his body, diving on the floor for a loose ball. That is one of the reasons as a coach I love coaching Rob, he is selfless and he ended up in the hospital that night because he is selfless...he is the ultimate TEAM FIRST kid!
By the time the end of the 3rd quarter came, we were up 50-35 and looking at blowing this thing open. Unfortunately that didn't happen and we let them stick around. The combination of Rob being out and Dominic rolling his ankle left us without two starters and good ballhandlers and they took advantage of that. They pressed us and we did not handle it well, turning the ball over and allowing them to score off of our turnovers and cut it to 8. Again, we found ourselves at the free throw line quite a bit and once again we answered the call. Leading the way was Dominic Davis who went 8 for 8 in the 4th quarter from the FT line. Joe Baker went 4 for 4 himself and we were able to keep them at arms length for the win, 66-57. Joe Baker had an outstanding game, ending with 34 points and 11 rebounds. Dominic Davis and Tyler Marwin had by far their best games of the season, scoring 14 and 11 respectively. It was a hard fought game and in the end. we held our composure better than they did and made our free throws and that was the difference.
So here we sit, 8 and 0 overall and 3 and 0 in the conference. The kids are riding high and playing hard and having fun. That's the good news...the bad news or maybe even more good news is that we have 12 games left. We host a tough Lakeshore team on Tuesday, Jan. 12.
Click (or cut and paste ) the link below to see the most recent State Class B Basketball rankings...we made a big jump this week.
Thanks for your support and Go Trojans!!!