By Chuck Pleiness
@wingsfrontman on Twitter
New Haven 45
And now there are two.
Behind 19 points from Romeo Weems and 14 out of Eric Williams Jr., the New Haven Rockets became just the second boys basketball team from Macomb County to win a state championship after downing Ludington, 45-36, to claim the Class B state title Saturday night at the Breslin Center on the campus of Michigan State University.
“It was a great game, they’re a great team,” New Haven coach Tedaro France II said. “They took away a lot of stuff we like to do.
They play a great zone. We kept our composure. It wasn’t a game if you told me we’d come here and win this way, we scored the lowest point total we scored all year, and we found a way to win.”
Lake Shore’s 1994 Class B championship had been the only boys crown won by a county team.
New Haven was the fourth county team to play in a final. South Lake (1931) and Eastland (1949) were the other two along with the Shorians.
“We stayed composed and kept fighting,” France said. “It’s still surreal to know that we’re the Class B state champions.”
The win was the Rockets’ 26th in a row. Their only loss was to Dakota.
It wasn’t easy for New Haven (27-1).
“It was weird at first,” Williams said. “We had to adjust to the tempo. They were dictating what we were doing. We had to dictate what we wanted to do and I think we did in the third and fourth quarters and we started to pick it up.”
Leading 31-30 to start the fourth, the Rockets outscored Ludington (25-3) 15-6 over the final eight minutes to pull away.
“We got them out of their comfort zone,” Weems said. “We started working hard. We started pressuring them. They started forcing turnovers and they started forcing shots. We scored off that.”
New Haven also had a nice run early in the second quarter. Down 15-7, the Rockets went on a 16-4 run to take a 23-19 lead into halftime.
“I think we did everything we talked about doing,” Ludington coach Thad Shank said. “We made it the pace we wanted. Defensively we were really good. They’re a team that really rebounds the ball and we did a good job of keeping them off the boards. We just couldn’t make shots. A lot of credit to New Haven for that, they’re long and athletic and they make it hard to finish.
“I thought we got a lot of great looks tonight, but that’s the game of basketball, sometimes they don’t always go in,” Shank continued. “But from a perspective of a coach of kids doing everything you asked I couldn’t be more proud of a basketball team.”
Weems also grabbed 10 rebounds, blocked four shots and added three steals.
Ashton Sherrell snatched 11 boards, while Williams grabbed seven and added three assists.
“When you're 6-7, 6-7 and 6-7 and you’re long and athletic like they are and quick, where we play, we’re not matching up against that level of athleticism on a regular basis,” Shank said. “They play above the rim. We’re probably the one team at the Breslin Center that hasn’t had a kid dunk a basketball in a high school basketball game. It’s obviously going to have an effect and that’s why they’re state champs.
“You have to give them credit,” Shank added. “They made it hard for us to score. We did everything we needed, but just didn’t score. You have to score a little to win.”
Ludington got 16 points from Calvin Hackert and 10 out of Sam LaDuke.
“When you have a guy that’s playing with his elbow above the rim and it comes flying at you it’s going to alter your shots a little bit,” Shank said. “Some nights in basketball you’re not going to make shots, even your best shooters. I think it was a combination of both.”
New Haven has also won three boys track & field titles in Class C – 1994, 1995 and 1996.
The other team state title came in boys bowling in Division 3 was in 2007.
This was the third winter sports team to win a state title from the county. Richmond won in wrestling and De La Salle in hockey.