By George Pohly
@GPohly on Twitter
Defense carried New Haven to a first-of-a-kind championship.
Eric Williams Jr. scored 28 points and Ronald Jeffery III and Romeo Weems had 16 apiece to lead New Haven to an 84-56 victory over Lake Shore in the championship game of the inaugural MAC Blue-Gold boys basketball tournament at Anchor Bay on Saturday.
Ashton Sherrell had 14 points and 13 rebounds, and A.J. Crawford scored 10 points and took seven rebounds as New Haven won its 17th straight game and improved to 18-1 with coach Tedaro France’s 150th career triumph. The Rockets close the regular season at Flint Beecher on Tuesday night.
“They played harder than us early in the game,” Weems said. “We called a timeout and talked about playing harder. It was a playoff game. We got our defense going.”
Williams had five points as MAC Blue Division champion New Haven took control of the game with an 11-0 run in the third quarter that left the Rockets with a 53-39 lead over the MAC Gold champion Shorians.
“We picked it up and got our defense going,” Williams, who scored 118 points in three tournament games, said.
New Haven continued to build its lead and took a 65-45 advantage into the fourth quarter. A 3-pointer by Crawford gave the Rockets an 82-49 lead with 3:41 left in the game.
Jeffery scored 12 points in the first half to help the Rockets build a nine-point lead.
“He stepped up big-time,” Williams said of Jeffery. “He’s gotten a lot of experience playing for our team.”
Cortez Jackson scored 17 points and Ricky Dixon 16 for Lake Shore (16-3), which had a 14-game winning streak snapped.
The Shorians got beat too often on the boards by the taller Rockets and committed too many turnovers, Lake Shore assistant coach Mike Jackson said.
“We had trouble taking the ball out of bounds and we turned it over too many times,” Jackson said. “They turned our turnovers into points.
“This was a good experience for us. It gets you ready for the state tournament. It shows you some things you need to work on.”
Jackson filled in for head coach Derrick Walton.
Walton attended the Purdue-Michigan basketball game where his son, Derrick Jr., a point guard for the Wolverines, was honored on Senior Night at the Crisler Center.
“Basketball is a family affair for them,” Jackson, who coached the younger Walton when he was in eighth grade, said.
“I enjoyed myself today,” Jackson said. “The kids will appreciate it, too, after the sting of the loss wears off.”
New Haven’s Williams had seven rebounds and five assists, and Weems had eight assists, seven blocked shots and seven steals.
Weems, who guarded Dixon for most of the game, had a dunk and then blocked a shot that started a fast-break that led to a Williams three-point play that gave New Haven a 49-39 lead with 6:10left in the third quarter.
Weems’ pass to Jeffery set up a basket that gave the Rockets a 36-31 lead during a 12-0 run in the second quarter.
Lake Shore went more than three minutes without scoring in the second half, eventually ending its drought when Dixon split a pair of free throws with 3:36 left in the third quarter.
Williams and Jeffery scored 12 points apiece in the first half as the Rockets built a nine-point lead. Crawford added seven points in the half.
Lake Shore’s Jackson had 15 points and Dixon 11 in the first half.
Williams had seven points during a 12-0 run that gave the Rockets a 39-31 lead late in the first half, and New Haven had a 42-33 lead at the intermission.
Williams scored 50 points in the Rockets’ tournament opener against Fraser and 40 in a semifinal game against Warren Woods-Tower.