Sure, New Haven dominated its District 56 semifinal matchup with St. Clair Wednesday, but for a half, the Rockets were nearly perfect.
New Haven held St. Clair scoreless through the first half of a 53-17 romp to advance to Friday’s district championship game. The Rockets led 28-0 at the break.
“We want to come out and take away their practice,” New Haven head coach Tedaro France II said. “We watch a lot of their film, we prepare the kids well and the kids prepare themselves well.
“They kind of took this game personal.”
Eric Williams, a transfer from St. Clair, outscored his former team on his own, going off for a game-high 19 points in the win. He grabbed five rebounds and dished out three assists to guide the Rockets to victory.
Romeo Weems finished with 14 points, six rebounds and four assists.
“We just go out there and play,” Williams said about the buildup surrounding the matchup against his former teammates. “We don’t worry about outsiders, or say anything back. We just let our game talk.”
A lob leading to a Weems dunk kicked on New Haven’s opening possession summed up how the night would go for both teams. The Rockets controlled the game on both sides of the ball and forced St. Clair into turnovers and poor shot selection.
“We didn’t execute the first five minutes and that’s kind of been our story a little bit all year,” St. Clair head coach Shawn Sharrow said. “I thought we had a good prep going in, and we just didn’t get off to a good start.
“We got dialed up and we weren’t ready to go.”
An AJ Crawford 3-pointer with 2:43 to go in the opening quarter staked New Haven to a 13-0 lead— a lead the Rockets would take to the second quarter after the Saints final possession of the quarter lasted nearly a minute and resulted in an errant shot attempt in the final seconds.
New Haven (21-1; 10-0 MAC Blue) went right back to work in the second quarter, outscoring St. Clair (15-7; 6-4 MAC Gold) 15-0 on the way to a 28-0 lead at the break.
“We just continued to defend,” Weems said. “They didn’t have anything to lose.
“We just had to protect ourselves and continue to play hard.”
Three quick buckets extended the Rockets’ lead to 34-0 before Ben Davidson got the Saints on the board with a breakaway layup with 6:23 left in the third quarter. The Saints had a few mini-runs in the second half, but never enough to significantly cut into the deficit.
Davidson and Devin Dombrow each finished with four points to lead St. Clair in the loss.