Rockets advance in Class C district
By Chuck Klonke
Rayshawn Griffin has heard the message many times during the last three seasons.
That's why it was no surprise to find the New Haven senior leading the way in the second half Monday when the Rockets pulled away from a scrappy Michigan Collegiate squad to open Class C district play with a 62-46 victory at Mount Clemens.
"We were playing slow and timid in the first half," said Griffin, who scored 11 of his 16 points in the third quarter. "I told myself, 'I have to bring a light to this team. I have to bring some fire.'
"I started making plays. That's what I'm here to do. Coach (Tedaro France II) has been telling me since I was a sophomore that I have to make the people around me better. That's what I tried to do."
New Haven led 29-23 at halftime, however the Cougars got a three-point play from Teo Redding and a basket off an offensive rebound from James King to cut the lead to one point.
Then the Rockets took off. Griffin and Rico Cook sparked a 12-0 run. It was stopped by a 3-point basket from Devin Dodson, but New Haven answered by scoring the last 11 points of the third quarter.
What had been a one-point lead was now a 52-31 margin going into the fourth quarter.
"At halftime it was kind of intense," France said. "I told them they had to come out and set the tone. The kids responded well. Rayshawn had a slow start and took off in the second half. Mike Kincaid took three charges. That was huge. Jamael (Bell) stepped up.
"It was a slow start but I told them it's a long game. Stay focused."
One area in which New Haven fell short in the first half was rebounding. Collegiate had several second-chance baskets with James King doing most of the work on the boards.
"We did a better job of rebounding in the second half," France said. "We're not that big, but I've been telling them all year that we have to rebound the ball. When we rebound, we play better. We hold teams to one shot and we can get into our offense."
Cougars coach David Hill praised the Rockets and said that his team's desire to keep the season alive might have contributed to their defeat.
"I think in the end, our kids wanted it so bad they started doing things out of our system," Hill said. "That's when (New Haven) started pulling away. We missed some key layups. My goal in the second half was to drive and dish and get some easy baskets. We didn't complete those, along with our free throws.
"Hats off to (New Haven). It's a very disciplined team, a great coach and a great program. I'm just glad we had the opportunity to compete with them and give them a battle."
The first half was a battle. Consecutive 3-point baskets by Tedaro France III and Ryun Crayton gave the Rockets a 20-10 lead. Collegiate responded with 10 straight points to pull into a 20-20 tie with a layup by Brian Jones.
Griffin broke the tie with a steal and a layup. Bell got two baskets on putbacks in the final minutes to send New Haven off at halftime with a six-point advantage.
Griffin's 16 points led all scorers and he also had five rebounds. Bell and Cook each scored 12 points. Sychar Sterling contributed eight points and 11 rebounds and Cook grabbed nine rebounds.
France wasn't surprised that Griffin had a outstanding game on the Mount Clemens floor. Last season, he scorched the Bathers for 41 points.
"He loves this gym," the coach said. "It's like his home. His dad played here. There's always a lot of family here."
Redding led Collegiate with 13 points, including a pair of crowd-pleasing dunks after steals. King had nine points to go with his 10 rebounds.
"We finished 8-10 but overall I'm comfortable because there was a lot of discipline instilled in them this year," Hill said. "We still have a long way to go, but the kids responded to a new coach and they respected me all season. I appreciate them working hard. We have a bright future.
“I commend my seniors because they definitely helped mold the younger kids. We have some stiff challenges in our league with Chandler Park, University Prep and Cesar Chavez and we played some good (non-league) teams like Inkster, East Detroit and Harper Woods. It helped prepare us for today."
New Haven advances to the district semifinal where it will play Harper Woods at 6 p.m. Wednesday. Mount Clemens will face University Liggett School at 7:30.
Michigan Collegiate 12 11 8 15--46
New Haven 20 9 23 10--62
Michigan Collegiate (8-10): Brian Jones 2, Robert Curtis 2, Devin Dodson 6, James King 9, Teo Redding 13, Will Davis 2, Lawrence Smith 4, David Baker 2, Curtis Calloway 6. Totals: 19 (2) 6-14--46.
New Haven (18-3): Rayshawn Griffin 16, Vantrell Williams 2, Tedaro France III 3, Sychar Sterling 8, Jamael Bell 12, Rico Cook 12, Mike Kincaid 2, Ryun Crayton 3, John Galloway 2. Totals: 26 (3) 7-15--62.