By Chuck Klonke
Special to The Macomb Daily
New Haven's basketball team studied its three R's in preparation for Friday's championship game in the Michigan Collegiate tournament.
It wasn't the traditional "Reading, 'Riting and 'Rithmetic" that the Rockets were learning, however.
"Coach (Tedaro France) said come in, play hard and do the three R's -- read, react and rotate," said Jamail Bell, who had an outstanding game in New Haven's 69-53 victory against the host Cougars.
Bell had 24 points and 17 rebounds, while Rayshawn Griffin finished with 30 points, collecting 15 in each half. Sycher Sterling was also a force on the boards as he pulled down nine rebounds.
"Bell and Sterling both did a great job on the boards," France said. "We spent a lot of time on a rebounding drill in practice (Thursday) and that paid off for us. We're long, but not that big so we have so we have to do the small things right for our team to be successful."
Bell echoed his coach's words when asked why he was so strong on the boards. Five of his baskets came on offensive rebounds.
"Just box out," he said. "Do the small things right and we'll win this game. The whole team played good tonight."
France said that Bell has taken over where he left off last season.
"That's how he was the last five games last year," France said. "It's great to see him grow. He's a hard worker, the first one to practice and the last one to leave. He wants to get better. That's great to see in a young player."
New Haven trailed 9-5 early in the game but a 3-point basket by Griffin capped a 7-0 run that put the Rockets ahead 12-9 and they maintained a lead the rest of the way. New Haven led 17-13 after one quarter and stretched the margin to 32-23 at halftime.
Michigan Collegiate got within three points after a three-point play by Will Davis with 5:22 left in the third quarter, but Sterling's 3-point basket ignited a 12-4 run to end the third quarter.
The Cougars, who lost a close game to Richmond in last year's tournament final, never got closer than eight points the rest of the way.
"They're a good team and I have a lot of respect for the job (France) does with them, but it should have been anybody's game going down to the last four minutes," said Michigan Collegiate coach Joe Cieslak. "We never got it to that point.
"They came out more intense. They ran their offense better than we did. We had very little offensive patience today. They defended better than we did. They outhustled us to the loose balls -- they got most of those 50-50 balls."
New Haven takes a 4-0 record into the beginning of Macomb Area Conference Gold Division play next week. The perfect mark didn't come as a total surprise to France.
"I knew we could, but we're very young," he said. "From the neck down, we're fine. It's from the neck up -- the mental part of the game -- that we have to learn. Once we get that down, we'll be fine.
"We're in a tough league. We've had four good tests. Hopefully, we'll be ready."
Cieslak is hoping the Cougars will be ready to take on the opposition in the Charter School League.
"We'll see how we rebound from this loss," he said. "We've got to cut out the mistakes. We turn the ball over too much. Defensively, we play in spurts. Offensively, we need to be more patient and not force the issue. Until we do that, we won't be as consistent as we need to be."
Martell Dukes led Michigan Collegiate with 10 points. Tommie Bush pulled down 10 rebounds.
New Haven 17 15 17 20--69
Michigan Collegiate 13 10 15 15--53
New Haven (4-0): Rayshawn Griffin 30, Deion Sims 2, Sycher Sterling 6, Jamail Bell 24, Rico Cook 2, Roemello Moore 4, Vantrell Williams 1. Totals: 26 (7) 10-19--69.
Michigan Collegiate (2-3): Will Davis 9, Malik Hodson 6, Jabriel Mathis 5, Martell Dukes 10, Robert Curtis 5, Gabe Sanders 5, Teo Redding 7, Tommie Bush 6. Totals: 21 (3) 8-17--53.