MARYSVILLE - It would have been the ultimate Cinderella story.
If the Marysville High School boys basketball team had somehow found a way to defeat Class B state powerhouse New Haven on Friday, the Vikings would have likely been the subject of the next inspirational Disney movie.
But dreams don't always come true. And after a solid start from Marysville, New Haven took control of the game early in the second half and held on for a 71-42 victory at Marysville High School.
It was the third consecutive district championship for the Rockets and the fifth in the past 9 years.
"This is a special accomplishment," New Haven senior Eric Williams said after scoring a game-high 28 points. "We know that we have to keep working on the things we did wrong tonight and get ready for this regional."
Ashton Sherrell added 15 points and Romeo Weems scored 11 points for New Haven. Dylan Kiger scored 16 points to lead Marysville and Ross Hinkley added 10. The Rockets (23-1) advance to face the winner of the Flint Northwestern-Goodrich contest at 7:30 p.m. Monday at North Branch.
"You can’t get too high or too low," New Haven senior guard AJ Crawford said. "You have to play consistent and stick to your bases. We stuck to our rules and played disciplined. We say brick by brick, win every day. We want to build on something bigger."
The Rockets and Vikings traded baskets to start the game with New Haven clinging to a 7-6 lead with 2:33 left in the first quarter. But right before the quarter concluded, New Haven went on a run and took an 18-10 lead entering the second quarter.
With the game close to double digits, the Vikings knew they had to respond. Marysville promptly went on a 7-0 run that brought the score within 18-17 and brought onlookers to their feet.
"We came out and we wanted to fight," Hinkley said. "We didn’t care who was on the court against us. It could have been Lebron James. We showed we can fight with anybody. Those couple of minutes showed that we can."
The run also led to a New Haven timeout where coach Tedaro France II implored his team to respond.
"They were playing a tough, 1-2-2 zone," France II said. "We came out and took some quick shots. But when we got the ball inside and attacked we got good looks. I was more upset that we got beat to the rim four or five times. That’s not us.
"We had to calm them down some and then we started playing ball. That was a big run before the half. They were playing hard and had made big shots."
Being down one point would be as close as Marysville would get the rest of the night. After the timeout, New Haven struck right back with a run of its own to take command once again. By the time the Rockets completed their 16-5 run to end the half, they were in control with a 34-22 lead entering the break.
In a way, being close to New Haven only fueled the Vikings' confidence. Marysville started the second half expecting to find its way back into the game. But instead, New Haven started the quarter with a 16-4 run. To make matters worse, Williams hit a long 3-pointer as the third quarter ended and the Rockets lead the Vikings 54-29 entering the final period.
The lead continued to grow in the fourth quarter and the Vikings never got back within striking distance.
"We are fearless," Kiger said. "We don't care who we are playing. We have been in this situation before and I think our leadership helped.
"I will miss the memories with my teammates and coaches. Stats and numbers last a season, but relationships and memories last forever."