Joseph Hayes, The Times Herald
They are the champions.
They are also riding a 51 game win streak.
The New Haven Rockets (25-0) enter the biggest week of the season playing their best basketball and having a real shot to capture three more wins this week for their second consecutive state championship.
But according to New Haven coach Tedaro France II, this Rockets team hasn't accomplished anything yet.
That's why they enter Tuesday's 7 p.m. Class B state quarterfinal against Bridgeport at Corunna High School, hungry and motivated to prove themselves.
"Every year is different," France II said. "This year, we haven't won a state championship. That was last year. We have to come out and work hard day in and day out to win a state championship.
"We can't just say we did it before so it will happen again. You have to work for it."
New Haven advanced to the quarterfinal round by defeating St. Clair and Detroit Country Day last week in regional play. Now the Rockets biggest test lies ahead.
They will face a Bridgeport (24-1) team with only one blemish on its record. The Rockets will have to continue playing at a high level to be ready for the challenge; and as always, they will rely on their defense to lead the way.
"We can always count on our defense," New Haven junior Romeo Weems said. "Even when the shots aren't going in, we can still defend. We play defense and it gets our offense going."
The Rockets defensive pressure has often allowed them to capture the momentum by forcing turnovers and turning them into transition points.
That will be the strategy once more against a Bridgeport team that defeated Flint Powers, 86-72. But the Rockets will also have to take care of the ball and limit their own mistakes so Powers isn't able to wrestle control of the game.
"We got into foul trouble and some guys stepped in and helped us," France II ."In games like this, I tell kids that don't play that much to be ready. They were ready. I tell our guys to be ready to play your role.
"I don't care if you make 12 mistakes. Just don't make the same one twice and don't dwell. If they make a mistake they aren't going to get subbed out. They don't have to feel down. They just have to continue playing."
Contact Joseph Hayes at (810) 989-6268 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Joseph_Hayes11.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Class B state quarterfinals
WHEN: 7 p.m. Tuesday
WHERE: Corunna High School