New Haven won the basketball game, and Jamesen McHale won the Rockets’ respect.
Dmonta Harris scored 21 points Monday night to lead New Haven to a 60-45 victory over upset-minded Lutheran North, which was paced by McHale’s 17 points in a Class B boys district tournament quarterfinal game on the undefeated Rockets’ court.
McHale’s 3-pointer drew the Mustangs to within 49-43 with about six minutes left in the fourth quarter, but Harris scored three points and Josh Harris made a basket off a spin move in the lane as New Haven closed the game on an 11-2 run to advance in the district hosted by Marysville.
“Nobody expected us to get the victory tonight, but we gave it our all,” said McHale, a senior guard who was hugged by Rockets coach Tedaro France and almost every New Haven player as the teams shook hands afterward.
“We tried our best,” McHale said. “We played probably our best game of the season and we fought to the very end. I’m proud of everybody.”
Lutheran North made nine 3-point field goals and New Haven missed 10 free throws in the game that featured both teams taking leads in the second quarter.
“My hat’s off to them; they played a great game,” New Haven coach Tedaro France said. “They shot the ball extremely well.
“It’s March. It doesn’t matter what your record is. It a new year, a new season. We’ve got to keep on fighting.”
Austin Sherrell had 10 points, Josh Harris finished with nine and John Galloway and Marquis Perkins had seven apiece for the Rockets (21-0). Dmonta Harris and Sherrell had 11 rebounds apiece, and Galloway had seven.
Austin Conn, a 6-foot-6 senior, scored 13 points for Lutheran North (10-11).
Conn’s 3-pointer gave Lutheran North a 22-19 lead and junior Jake Schinkai’s triple tied the game 25-all in the second quarter, which ended with New Haven leading 33-27.
McHale’s step-back shot over the defense at the third-quarter buzzer cut New Haven’s lead to 42-38.
Lutheran North focused for about three weeks on preparing for the Rockets, Mustangs coach Kevin Murawski said.
“We put in a new offense and an all new defense, and tonight I thought we executed it,” Murawski said.
“They’re a great team. There are no weaknesses. Everyone that gets into the game for them is ready to go, and they know what’s going on.
“But my guys gave me everything I asked. We knew it was going to be a challenge.”
New Haven, France said, tried to force the Mustangs to create offense off the dribble rather than spotting up for perimeter shots.
“In the second half, we did a better job of that,” France said.
Sherrell’s coast-to-coast dunk followed baskets by Josh Harris and Dmonta Harris and gave the Rockets a 41-30 lead with 3:12 left in the third quarter.
Lutheran North answered with consecutive 3-pointers by Conn.
The fourth quarter began with Dmonta Harris and Sherrell converting steals for baskets that put the Rockets ahead 46-38.
McHale then sandwiched a 2-point basket and a 3-pointer around Dmonta Harris’ triple as Lutheran North pulled to within 49-43 before the Rockets went on their game-deciding run.
“It was all about trying to slow down the tempo,” McHale said. “We knew they were going to (try to) run us out of the gym. We wanted to slow it down a little bit, waste some time and get our shots on the perimeter.”
New Haven plays Algonac in a district semifinal game at Marysville on Wednesday.
“We’ve got to get back to work,” France said. “We’ve got to continue to work hard and play great defense. We’ve got to rebound the ball better, too.”
Clintondale plays Marysville in the other district semifinal.