New Haven boys basketball coach Tedaro France II has been telling his team all season about playing great team defense, which will lead to sparking the offense.
The Rockets put that on display in the second half, smothering St. Clair as they cruised to a 61-41 win in a MAC Gold Division game, Thursday night to remain the only unbeaten team in Macomb County.
“We have guys going up and getting ball and guys just playing overall great team defense,” said France, whose squad outscored the Saints 39-23 in the second half after holding just a four-point lead after two quarters. “They want to play team defense. We have guys that can score, but that comes second.”
With under two minutes to play late in the third quarter New Haven put that team defense mentality on display for all to see.
Already up 41-30, the Rockets’ Dmonta Harris ran the length of the court to block a breakaway dunk attempt by Eric Williams and then fired a pass to Josh Harris standing near the Saints’ free-throw line for a dunk of his own.
“I tell my players they won’t touch the court if they don’t play team defense,” said France, whose team is 7-0 in the MAC Gold and 13-0 overall. “We feed off that.”
The defensive effort also helped the Rockets after a very sluggish first half offensively.
“We’re going to have days when we start slow and can’t shoot the ball well, but we should never have a bad game on the defensive side of the ball,” France said. “It’s happened a lot. We’ve done a good job so far coming out in the second half to get the game back. It’s not how you start it’s how you end up.”
A pair of Rockets finished with double-doubles – Dmonta Harris (12 points, 12 rebounds) and Innocent Nwoko (11 points, 11 rebounds, five blocks) – and another a point away from doing so – Josh Harris (nine points, 10 rebounds).
John Galloway also chipped in nine points for New Haven, which will look to run its opening season win streak to 14 when it plays at Lakeview Tuesday.
“We’re still learning and getting better every day,” France said. “We still have a lot of flaws that need to be fixed. We played hard, but sometimes never very smart. It’s going to take time and hopefully we can get if fixed by March.”
The Saints (4-3, 8-5) got 14 points from Clarke Lamb.
“We never found an offensive rhythm the whole night,” St. Clair coach Shawn Sharrow said. “We said at the half someone is going to get an 8-0 or 10-0 run. It was them. They did a good job defensively and took us out of what we wanted to do.”
New Haven topped the Saints, 67-56, in the first meeting.
“We were hoping to breakout in the third quarter and it just didn’t happen,” Sharrow said. “We move the ball a lot better than we did tonight. They were anchored in pretty good against Lamb. We needed to pick our spots, but they were denying passes. It’s not that we didn’t drive the ball we were trying to do it off one pass.”