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Eric Williams Jr. helped New Haven make school and Macomb County boys basketball history.
Williams scored 26 points, including two on free throws with 1.1 seconds left in the fourth quarter, to spark the Rockets to a 53-50 victory over Lake Fenton in a Class B regional tournament championship game at Imlay City on Wednesday night.
Freshman Romeo Weems drove for a layup that enabled the Rockets to wipe out the Blue Devils’ only lead of the game and put New Haven ahead 49-48 with 1:16 to go, and Weems and Alante Stevens made a free throw apiece before Williams stepped to the line as New Haven became a back-to-back regional champion for the first time in program history.
“I was nervous,” Williams, a junior guard who transferred to New Haven before the start of this season, said.
“This was my first time being here, and it was a great experience. I didn’t know if we would make it this far, because we had our ups and downs this season. But we played great today.”
New Haven was one of three county regional champions crowned Wednesday.
Dakota and Stevenson won in Class A as the county had three regional champs in the same season for the first time since at least 1951.
“It’s a blessing,” New Haven coach Tedaro France said. “I’m just so proud of the kids, to see how hard they worked and how far they’ve come. We’re still a young team. We still make young mistakes, but one thing they do is play hard.”
New Haven won its fourth regional championship, all since 1990, as the Rockets raised their record to 22-2.
But the Rockets had nervous moments against Lake Fenton, which trailed 38-24 with 5:06 left in the third quarter and then rallied to take a 48-47 lead on Chris Bell’s 3-pointer from the left wing with 1:31 left in the game.
“They have big, strong guards,” France said of the Blue Devils. “They can knock down shots or go by you. They were difficult to guard.”
Jalen Miller led Lake Fenton (21-4) with 19 points. Isaac Golson had 13 and Bell 12 for Lake Fenton, which was seeking its first regional championship in program history.
New Haven plays Detroit Ford at 7 p.m. Tuesday in a quarterfinal game at Lake Shore.
Williams scored 15 points in the first half against Lake Fenton.
“He had a great game for us tonight,” France said of Williams. “He opens it up for us. He makes the defenses stretch out. Teams play us man to man more because he can make shots.”
France was confident with Williams at the free throw line with 1.1 seconds to go.
“I knew it was good,” the coach said.
The Rockets missed two free throws in the final half-minute of the fourth quarter, and they missed 10 for the game.
“It was up to our defense, and we got it done,” Stevens said. “We had some defensive breakdowns that we know we have to fix. It was a good game.”
Lake Fenton was playing in a regional for the first time since 1997, when the Blue Devils were in Class C.
“I’m proud of them,” Blue Devils coach Jack Erway said. “They battled tonight like they did all season. A lot of people didn’t think we’d be here. They put themselves in position to win the basketball game."
Williams and Stevens had six rebounds apiece and Jerry Ben had five rebounds for New Haven.
Weems had 10 rebounds, five assists and two blocks.
Lake Fenton outscored New Haven 7-1 in the final 1:31 of the second quarter and pulled to within 26-24 of the Rockets at halftime.
Williams scored the last of his first-half points when he split a pair of free throws with 16.4 seconds left in the second quarter.
But despite Williams’ 3-pointer with 3:48 left and another basket by the smooth-shooting junior, New Haven could not pull away from the Blue Devils.
Williams scored New Haven’s first four points of the second quarter as the Rockets took a 16-8 lead.
Lake Fenton surged back with the help of a triple by Miller and a basket by Isaac Golson.
New Haven scored the first seven points of the game, just as it did in the regional semifinal against Detroit Country Day.
Williams had a 3-pointer and a 2-point basket to help get the Rockets started, and three different Blue Devils missed two free throws apiece in the first 2:25 of the game.
Lake Fenton got on the scoreboard with a basket by Miller with 3:03 left in the opening quarter.
Innocent Nwoko’s three-point play and Alante Stevens’ steal and drive for a layup closed the scoring in the first quarter, which ended with the Rockets leading 12-2.
New Haven won its first regional championship in 1990. The Rockets also won regional titles in 2012 and 2015.
The Rockets have never won a state quarterfinal game.
Stevenson played Roseville in a Class A regional final at Chippewa Valley, and Dakota played Rochester Adams in a regional championship game on the Cougars’ court.
Macomb County has had two regional champs in a season several times, including 2014 when Warren-Mott won in Class A and Mount Clemens in Class C.