The last few practices have been tuneup time for the New Haven basketball machine.
“In our last two games we gave up the first eight points to Madison on layups and the first 10 points against Port Huron on layups so we had to get that fixed,” Rockets coach Tedaro France II said after New Haven’s 76-35 win against St. Clair Tuesday in a Macomb Area Conference Gold Division game.
“This whole week we didn’t do anything with the ball. We worked on our defense and tonight it showed. I told the kids not to worry about the offense. If we play good defense the offense will come. “
It was the perfect night to get back to the defensive basics. The Saints are young in the backcourt and they had trouble getting the ball up the court.
“We just can’t simulate their size and quickness in practice,” said St. Clair coach Shawn Sharrow. “We had too many turnovers on the front end of our offense, bringing the ball up. We were down 14 points at the half (33-19) and 10 or 12 of them had to be when we got picked for an easy layup.
“We’re young. Three of our guards are sophomores. We’ll learn from that and keep battling. Hopefully, as the season goes on, we’ll run our offense a little better.”
New Haven pulled away with a 22-4 run that bridged the first and second quarters and opened a 30-9 lead with 3:42 to play in the first half. Freshman Romeo Weems capped the spurt with a basket off one of his 10 steals.
Weems finished with a triple-double. He scored 22 points, had 12 rebounds and dished out six assists.
“He’s a very skilled kid, but the best thing about him is he wants to be coached,” France said. “The sky is the limit for him. He told me ‘coach me hard. Don’t tell me just what I’m doing right but tell me my flaws.’ He and Eric Williams are the first ones here and the last ones to leave. I have to turn the lights out on them to get them to leave.”
St. Clair ended New Haven’s run with a 10-0 surge of its own, featuring a pair of 3-point baskets by Cameron Parslow.
The victory was the sixth in seven games for the Rockets, who had to replace four of the five starters from last year’s 25-1 team that went to the state Class B quarterfinals.
“We’re getting back to what we do best — playing team defense,” France said. “We have a young group and the more experience they get the more tight-knit group they’ll be. I love to see the progress they’re making. I tell them that if they do make mistakes, make them at full speed, don’t dwell on them, learn a lesson and move on.”
Weems led four double-figure scorers for New Haven. Innocent Nwoko had 17 points, Williams scored 15 and Jerry Ben added 10. Nwoko and Ben each pulled down 11 rebounds and Williams grabbed nine.
Ben Davidson led St. Clair with 16 points.