MADISON HEIGHTS >> The dream of a perfect season became reality for New Haven’s basketball team.
The Rockets’ 61-52 victory against upset-minded Madison Thursday in the MAC Gold Division made New Haven the seventh Macomb County team to go 20-0 in the regular season and the first since Romeo in 2002-03. New Haven also did it in 1996-97.
“It’s tough to do,” coach Tedaro France II said. “We had our ups and downs but these kids found a way to win. They know when they have to turn it on and go.”
New Haven turned it on in the last 3 1/2 minutes. The Rockets were leading 46-45 when Josh Harris stole the ball and went in for a two-handed dunk. Moments later, Dmonta Harris, who had been in foul trouble much of the game, hit a 3-pointer from the left baseline and New Haven’s lead had swelled to 51-45.
The Rockets got their biggest lead of the game, 59-48, when Marquis Perkins, who had an important 3-point basket earlier in the quarter, sank four straight free throws.
“We practice too hard for us to come out and play sloppy,” Perkins said. “We started bad in the first half but coach talked to us and we picked up the intensity in the second half. We came out ready to play.”
He said that Josh Harris’ basket got the team fired up even more.
“Josh is an amazing athlete — an all-state track star — and when he got that steal I knew he was going to dunk in hard,” Perkins said. “That got us all excited.”
France knew that Madison, which ended the regular season 15-5, would give the Rockets a battle.
“When you’re in first place you get everybody’s best effort so we have to prepare hard,” France said. “Today (Madison) played a great game. It was a great game before (the state tournament). Now every game is going to be like this.
“I’m glad we’re learning how to win close games. Kids are making plays down the stretch and we’re doing the right things. We still have to get some things fixed. Kids are going to make mistakes but we’re making them at full speed. This is great and we’re going to enjoy it for the moment but Monday is Lutheran North.”
Perkins had praise for Madison’s effort.
“Their guys played hard,” he said. “They’re a very scrappy team. And their fans were amazing. They kept the game exciting. It was a very exciting game. I’m glad we came away with the victory.”
There were six lead changes and three ties in the first half that ended with the teams deadlocked at 24-all. Madison took a 24-22 lead on a five-point possession late in the first half. Marqwen Carruthers hit a 3-point basket and AJ Williams was fouled away from the play. Williams was awarded a free throw in a bonus situation and made both. Josh Harris then tied the game on a layup with 30 seconds remaining in the half.
New Haven led for most of the third quarter but Madison pulled into a tie on a 3-pointer by Carruthers and a basket by Williams after a Rockets turnover. Alante Stevens got a basket for New Haven to send the Rockets into the fourth quarter with a 41-39 lead.
“This was a perfect game going into the district,” said Eagles coach Matt Ferguson. “We have a lot of long, athletic teams in our district so when we set this up (after a weather postponement) we had that in mind. It was good for them, too.”
When the teams met earlier in the season, New Haven won 72-45. Ferguson said his team was ready for the Rockets this time.
“They punched us pretty hard the first game,” he said. “We were a little starry-eyed at how hard they were playing and we were more prepared for it tonight. We made some changes defensively. Our help was much better than in the first game.
“We were pretty hyped up for this game. We missed five baskets from close range early in the game. We played hard for 32 minutes.”
Josh Harris led New Haven with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Dmonta Harris finished with 15 points and eight rebounds. Austin Sherrell grabbed 10 rebounds. Perkins had five assists.
Carruthers led a balanced Madison attack with 14 points and Jaylin Golson had 10. Anthony Love led the Eagles with seven rebounds.