New Haven's basketball team is still undefeated but the Rockets had to work overtime to stay that way.
A gritty, spirited Warren Woods-Tower squad gave New Haven all it could handle for four quarters Friday before the Rockets escaped with an 84-71 overtime win in the Macomb Area Conference Gold Division.
"This was a great, great game," said New Haven coach Tedaro France II. "Our MAC Gold is so tough. We know what (Warren Woods-Tower) does and they know what we do so it was a dogfight. It was a great team win. It's always great to come here and win.
"We need games like this to show who we are. We went through some tough times tonight but the kids stayed together, we kept our composure, we stayed strong and got the victory. A game like this teaches our kids how to play in certain situations. You can't practice these things. You can work on them but you have to do them in game situations. Warren Woods-Tower shot the ball extremely well and we had to overcome that."
The duel within the game was between New Haven's Dmonta Harris and Woods-Tower's Darius Jordan. Jordan finished with 32 points and Harris had 30.
Titans coach Nick Evola was extremely pleased with the performance of his team.
"These guys battled from start to finish," he said. "I'm proud of their effort. Just a couple bad bounces at the end. There's no reason for them to hang their heads. They gave a 100 percent effort the whole time and they earned a lot of respect from a lot of people."
Friday's game was a stark contrast from the earlier meeting that New Haven won 49-34. WWT exceeded that total by halftime when it led 40-38.
"We just had to go out and play hard," Evola said. "We didn't do anything special. We know what they can do. We knew we had to keep them off the glass and play physical with the bigs down low. We had to force them to make tough shots. We tried to take advantage of our mismatches. It was some of the best free-throw shooting we've had all year.
"Some guys stepped up tonight who hadn't really been getting it going lately. I'm so proud of their effort."
Marquis Perkins was one of the unsung heroes for New Haven. He made Jordan work for his points in the second half until he fouled out. Then Dolan Bonkowski took over and did well at point guard during the overtime.
"Marquis did a great job on Jordan," France said. "He's our guy on defense. Dmonta stepped up. Our post guys stepped up. It was good to see guys who don't do certain things break out of their shell and get things down. It's great to see guys grow."
New Haven led 65-62 with three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Jordan tied the game with three free throws when he was fouled shooting a 3-pointer. He then stole the ball and went in for a layup to give the Titans a 67-65 lead with 1:38 to go.
Bonkowski hit a pair of free throws with 30 seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 67-all. New Haven jumped ahead early in overtime on a dunk by Innocent Nwoko. He was fouled and missed the free throw, but he grabbed his own rebound and scored to put the Rockets ahead 71-67.
Harris, Bonkowski and Nwoko each hit two free throws in the final minute of overtime to secure the win.
Harris said that the Rockets went into the overtime with renewed determination.
"We talked about what we had to do to pick it up," Harris said. "Everything starts on defense and we had to pick up the intensity. Not only that, but we had to stop making turnovers.
"We have a lot of talent on this team but we also have a lot of will -- the will to win and the will to execute what we work on in practice. In order for us to win a game like this, as tough as it is, we have to execute."
Harris said that the Rockets are guarding against getting complacent.
"Coach talked about another team that was 13-0," Harris said. "They got big-headed and started losing. Our idea is not to learn from losing but to learn while we keep winning."
Austin Sherrell scored 19 points for New Haven. Dmonta Harris had 13 rebounds and Josh Harris collected nine.
Charles Frazier had 12 points and six rebounds for Woods-Tower.