Josh Harris has been in his coach’s doghouse at times this boys basketball season.
On Tuesday, he was the top dog.
Harris came off the bench and scored a season-high 28 points Tuesday night to lead visiting New Haven to an 84-74 victory over Lincoln and the outright championship of the Macomb Area Conference Gold Division.
Dmonta Harris added 21 points, and John Galloway scored nine points in the final 3:50 as the undefeated Rockets overcame a slow start and won for the 18th time while clinching their first Gold title.
“It’s amazing,” Galloway said after the Rockets improved to 11-0 in the Gold. “Winning with the guys here and coach (Tedaro) France is amazing.”
Josh Harris also had 15 rebounds and senior Austin Sherrell contributed a triple-double with 10 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists as New Haven won before a crowd that included Detroit Mercy basketball coach Ray McCallum plus Lincoln graduate and former Macomb County Sheriff William Hackel.
“It was a great game,” France said. “Lincoln’s guards are tough. We took the blows and our team stayed composed. We found a way to win.
“Sometimes it doesn’t look very good, but the results have wound up good. One thing this group does well is it plays hard.”
Le’Ronn Moore scored 21 points and Marcus Panyek and Julian Moore had 18 each for Lincoln (3-7, 7-9). Djuan Drake added 15.
The Abes trailed 64-61 with 4:29 left, but Galloway made two free throws and a basket in a span of 31 seconds, and his consecutive field goals with less than two minutes to play put New Haven ahead 80-71.
“If we execute a little better, take a few better shots, maybe box out a little better, maybe we would have had an opportunity to win the game in the final minute rather than having to foul and make them make free throws,” McGavin said.
New Haven joined the Gold Division when the school entered the MAC in 2004-05 following a couple of years as an independent after the breakup of the Southern Thumb Association, the Rockets’ long-time home.
New Haven finished second to Madison in its first Gold season, and was runner-up to Mount Clemens each of the last three years, but had never won a division championship.
“It’s another special moment for our program,” France, who led New Haven to 21 victories and the state Class C quarterfinals in 2011-12.
Lincoln aimed to make the Rockets wait to clinch the outright championship as the Abes led 17-9 after one quarter and 22-9 early in the second quarter.
“We’re a good team,” Lincoln coach Jeff McGavin said. “We played well.”
But Josh Harris scored 12 of the Rockets’ first 18 points, and senior Dmonta Harris, who is not related to Josh, made consecutive 3-point field goals late in the second quarter, which ended with Lincoln clinging to a 35-33 lead.
Josh Harris made four free throws in the fourth quarter as the Rockets built a 60-57 lead, and New Haven eventually led 70-63 with 3:19 to go.
“We’re undefeated right now,” Josh Harris said. “I wanted to keep it that way.”
The performance by 6-foot-6 Josh Harris, a state high hurdles champion last spring, pleased France, who said he has been hard on the senior.
“I knew he could be a special player,” France said. “He’s been in my doghouse from time to time because I’ve been trying to get it out of him. It’s been tough love.
“Tonight he broke out of his shell. He played his best game since he’s been here.
“Now we know we can rely on him for games that are coming up. It’s good to see certain guys step up toward the end of the season.”
New Haven plays a MAC crossover game at Mount Clemens on Friday, and the Rockets wrap up their Gold schedule next week against Madison.
Lincoln plays Warren Woods-Tower on Wednesday.