By George Pohly
@GPohly on Twitter
Tedaro France stepped to the podium and said, “It’s a great day to be a Rocket.”
With that, the New Haven boys basketball coach tipped off a celebration generations of fans have waited to witness.
New Haven honored its state Class B championship team with an assembly at the high school gymnasium Thursday night.
The players were introduced, team awards were handed out and the Rockets split into teams of Green and White for a scrimmage that gave the public a final chance to see Eric Williams Jr., A.J. Crawford III and Co. on the hardwood.
The championship celebration capped a week of heady times for the team and the town, including the Rockets’ semifinal victory over Benton Harbor on Friday, their title-game win over Ludington the next evening, a fire-truck escort on the final leg of the drive home from East Lansing on Saturday night and a welcome-home reception by hundreds of fans that lasted past midnight.
“It’s been a whirlwind, but it’s been so much fun,” New Haven school superintendent Todd Robinson said. “You don’t want it to end.
“It’s been a pleasure to see people from decades ago come out, some with tears in their eyes, to support this team. They wanted this so much for this school and this community.”
The Rockets went 27-1, with a closing 26-game winning streak, as they became the second Macomb County boys team to win a state championship and the first since Lake Shore in 1994.
“It’s still surreal,” France said. “It still seems like a dream.”
“It still doesn’t feel real,” junior forward Ashton Sherrell added.
France thanked his coaching staff plus other groups and individuals, including long-time scorebook keeper Brenda Martin and game clock operator Scott Clifford, in his remarks.
Later, New Haven village president Chris Dilbert, Lenox Township supervisor Ron Trombly and Robinson spoke.
Among the awards won by players, sophomore Romeo Weems was named the state Class B Player of the Year by The Associated Press, and Williams was named the Class B Player of the Year by Prep Hoops Michigan.
“It’s been sinking in,” Weems said. “It has been nice celebrating. People have been saying thank you for bringing the championship here. A lot of them have said they love watching us play.
“It has been a lot of fun.”
Williams and Crawford were the Rockets’ only senior starters.
“It’s been a great few days,” Williams said. “The community has been a great blessing for us.”
New Haven defeated Ludington 45-36 a day after dispatching Benton Harbor 78-49. Both games were played at the Breslin Center before crowds that included several hundred New Haven fans.
“After Saturday, they had to kick us out of the Breslin,” Robinson said. “We didn’t want to leave. And then after that, everyone came back here. It’s been awesome.
“I’m happy for the team and coach France and his staff. I’m even happier for our entire school district.”
France described the days since Saturday in two words.
“No sleep,” he said.
“I’ve gotten a lot of cards and emails,” the coach continued. “It’s great to see so much joy from the people.
“I didn’t know so many people were waiting for this to happen. These kids bring so much joy to so many people.”
This season was the first that New Haven got past the quarterfinal round of the state tournament.