New Haven makes depth pay off in win
New Haven's superstar wasn't quite super.
But the Rockets remained super, finding alternate forms of offense and fighting off Bridgeport, 78-72, for a Class B quarterfinal win Tuesday at Corunna.
"We're not a one-man team," New Haven coach Tedaro France said. "We're not just Romeo Weems. We have four players who average in double figures, so we have players to step in if someone is having a bad game."
New Haven star Romeo Weems struggles against Bridgeport defense
Weems, a 6-foot-7 junior, was the featured attraction, drawing the focus of the Bridgeport defense and Michigan State coach Tom Izzo. Weems, generally considered the front-runner for next season's Mr. Basketball award, scored just 13 points, making 3 of 10 from the floor and 6 of 8 from the line.
Instead, junior Ronald Jeffery took over, scoring 29 points to lead the undefeated Rockets to the Class B semifinals at 7:30 p.m. Friday against 23-2 Grand Rapids Catholic Central at Michigan State's Breslin Center.
New Haven had experience playing without Weems"We played most of the summer without Romeo," France said.
"Our other players gained confidence in playing without Romeo. And when Romeo came back, he came back with more confidence because we were basically adding him to what we had been playing with all summer."
Bridgeport cut lead to three points in fourth quarter
Despite the multiple offensive weapons, New Haven struggled to get past Bridgeport, which had not lost since the first game of the season. The Bearcats cut the Rockets' lead to three points several times during the fourth quarter, but Bridgeport couldn't get closer.
A 3-pointer by Charles Garrett with 10.7 seconds remaining cut the New Haven lead to 76-72, but Weems hit two free throws to put the game away.
Bridgeport creates havoc
"We heard all the talk about where is Bridgeport, what is Bridgeport," Bridgeport coach Kevin Marshall said. "We wanted to show them what we were. They weren't ready for the havoc. We want to keep the pressure up, force them to make mistakes.
"We average 25 steals a game. There's a reason for that."
Bridgeport pressure forced New Haven turnovers
France knew what was coming but couldn't prevent the turnovers.
"We had more turnovers tonight than we had all season combined," France said. "But that's a tough, scrappy team that never gives up. They create a lot of turnovers with their defense and pressure. I knew this was not going to be comfortable.
"I'm a football player. When I looked at their roster, I saw all those football players, and I knew what to expect. When you have football players on your team, they're going to be tough. They're never going to give up. They're going to scrap. They did all that. Bridgeport is an outstanding team."
Football attitude carries Bearcats
Nine of the 15 players on the basketball team played football for Marshall.
"To play football, you have to be a little crazy," Marshall said. "They bring an attitude. They scrap. They grind. I don't think New Haven was used to our toughness."
Bridgeport's Charles Garrett steals spot light
With Weems struggling, Bridgeport's Charles Garrett stole the show in front of Izzo. The Bridgeport senior scored 36 points with 10 rebounds, scoring 26 in the second half.
"People didn't believe in us," the 6-foot-3 senior said. "I hope people believe in us now. We were grinding it out, doing everything to win."
Garrett scored 17 points in the fourth quarter.
"He's a great, great player," France said. "He did everything. He put them on his back … just a tremendous player."
New Haven scoring leaders
Tavares Oliver Jr. also scored 13 points for the Rockets, who are the defending Class B state champions. Ascaun Johnson added 11 points before fouling out, with Ashton Sherrell scoring 10 points.
SirQuarius Ball also has a big game for Bridgeport
Bridgeport junior SirQuarius Ball scored 19 points with seven rebounds, with junior guard Markele Garrett hitting three 3-pointer for nine points. Kentae Parker added eight points for Bridgeport.
Bridgeport dream ends in quarterfinal
"This hurts," Marshall said. "I'm proud of these kids, of what they did for Bridgeport basketball. We knew we were going to have to wake up from our dream some time. We just didn't want it to wake up from our dream this early."