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New Haven's basketball team has a simple goal.
"We want to win the day," Rockets coach Tedaro France II said Tuesday after New Haven defeated Michigan Collegiate 76-46 in a battle of unbeaten teams in the championship game of the second Rocket Holiday Classic.
"Every time we step on the court we want to get better. We learned from our mistakes last night. You have to make mistakes to learn. The kids came out today and didn't make the same mistakes. They're learning. We still have a long way to go, but the effort is there.
"If we continue to grow and learn we'll be a pretty good team."
If you ask Michigan Collegiate coach Paul Knight, New Haven is already pretty good.
"They're a well-coached, disciplined team with talent," he said. "It's going to be very difficult for any team to beat them. It's difficult to game plan for them. It's like game-planning for a college team. I told my guys to attack them, try to get them off their game and get them in foul trouble. We got No. 32 (Dmonta Harris) in foul trouble but other guys stepped up. You can't teach 6-11."
That's another problem the Rockets pose. With 6-foot-11 Innocent Nwoko and 6-9 Jerry Ben guarding the paint area, New Haven's opponents attack the basket at their own risk.
"They're a big asset," said Harris, who finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds despite sitting out most of the first half. "I always tell Jerry and Innocent, 'if you're open and put your arms up, I'll hit you.'
"Then we've got Marquis (Perkins) with his assists and Austin (Sherrell) stepping up. We got a great job from everybody. I think we're going to have a lot of success."
Harris is happy to spread the wealth.
"As long as my team wins, everything's good," he said. "As long as everybody eats, it's all good."
Harris picked up his third foul with 3:24 left in the first half with New Haven leading 29-17. The Rockets didn't skip a beat without Harris on the floor. They got a put back from Sherrell, a layup from John Galloway and a 3-point basket from Alante Stevens and when the half ended New Haven still led 38-27.
In their two previous games, the Rockets had to overcome double-digit deficits. France was wary of that happening against Michigan Collegiate.
"We had to come out strong today," he said. "They got down yesterday and fought back (against Mount Clemens). They're tough kids. We know they'll fight the whole game. They have a Grade-A football program. We had to come out and play tough and smart, take care of the ball and attack the rim -- and play great defense.
"In order for us to be a great team we have to play great defense."
The Cougars had an 8-0 run early in the third quarter to cut New Haven's lead to 43-35 but the Rockets' defense tightened even more and held Collegiate to 11 points over the last 12:45.
There are some similarities between the Rockets and Cougars. Both teams have a deep rotation that enables them to play tenacious defense.
"We do a lot of sprinting and full-court pressure," Knight said. "We full-court press 95 percent of the time and we train for that. I need 10 guys who can consistently be rotated in and understand what's going on. I don't want to say all 10 are there right now, but I have a lot of guys who are developing every day."
New Haven has won its tournament both years.
"It's our goal to win it, but we always try to get good teams in here," France said. "I want to test our kids and prepare for the league and the postseason."
Sherrell finished with 18 points, 11 rebounds and three steals. Josh Harris had 10 points and 10 rebounds and Perkins had seven assists.
Justin Parker led Collegiate with 13 points and Jamell Green had 10. Malcolm Cohen finished with nine points and nine rebounds.
"I think we have a bright future," Knight said. "I hope we can learn from this game and take it into Chandler Park (on Jan. 9) and get off to a good start in the league."
Last Updated: 12/30/2014 10:12:19 PM EST