By George Pohly
EAST LANSING >> New Haven will play for a state basketball championship.
Eric Williams Jr. scored 22 points and Romeo Weems 14 to lead the Rockets to a 78-49 victory over Benton Harbor in a boys Class B semifinal game at the Breslin Center on Friday night.
The Rockets, the first Macomb County team since Lake Shore in 1994 to reach a state final, will play Ludington, which upset second-ranked River Rouge in overtime in the other semi, at 6:30 p.m. Saturday for the state crown.
“This is big time,” Weems said after the Rockets won their first semifinal before a large turnout of New Haven fans. “I love being on the court. I had fun.
“We’ve worked hard to get here.”
New Haven has won 25 games in a row.
“We’re here because of hard work,” Rockets coach Tedaro France II said. “Not by luck or by chance. We’ve been working hard the whole year.”
New Haven (26-1) missed 18 free throws in its quarterfinal victory over Detroit Osborn on Tuesday, but the Rockets’ aim was better from the line and the field against Benton Harbor.
New Haven was 20-of-29 from the line and shot 43 percent (25-of-58) from the floor.
“I’ve learned to stay calm and not get stage fright,” Williams, who made eight of 13 shots, said.
New Haven crashed the boards, especially in the first half, and ended the game with a 44-31 edge in rebounds.
“It was very important,” Benton Harbor coach Corey Sterling said of the Rockets’ ability to rebound. “We usually out-rebound teams. Carlos Johnson is a very quick jumper, and he leads our rebounding effort.
“It seemed like they had two or three Carlos Johnsons. That really was the game.”
Johnson, a senior center, led the Tigers in rebounds with 10. He scored nine points.
New Haven made eight 3-point field goals, including three by Williams in the first half when the senior scored all of his points.
“We scouted them,” Sterling said. “We had tapes on a lot of their games. They never shot like that.”
Weems, a 6-foot-7 sophomore whose scholarship offers include Oakland, Michigan State and Ohio State, had 13 rebounds and five assists, both team highs, in front of a crowd that included Michigan coach John Beilein.
Ronald Jeffery II had 10 points for New Haven. His 3-pointer accounted for the first points of the game.
A.J. Crawford added nine points for the Rockets. Williams made four assists and Ashton Sherrell had nine rebounds.
Elijah Baxter scored 14 to pace Benton Harbor (22-4), the 2014 state runner-up that has three state championships to its credit. The Tigers made 19 of 58 shots, 32.8 percent.
Benton Harbor scored the first eight points of the third quarter to pull to within 43-27. However, New Haven answered with an 8-0 run that featured two baskets by Weems, and that gave the Rockets a 51-27 lead and control of the game.
Williams scored 12 points and he and Weems had a 3-pointer apiece in the first quarter as New Haven built a 22-10 lead. The Rockets led 43-19 at halftime after Williams and Jeffery closed the second quarter with back-to-back triples.
Lake Shore’s 1994 Class B championship was the only boys crown won by a county team.
New Haven will be the fourth county team to play in a final. South Lake (1931), Eastland (1949) and Lake Shore preceded the Rockets to championship games.
Also on Saturday, Powers North Central will play Buckley in the Class D championship game at 10 a.m.; Clarkston and Grand Rapids Christian will meet in the Class A final at noon and Flint Beecher and Grand Rapids Covenant Christian will settle Class C at 4:30 p.m.