Roseville’s basketball team has a 1-2 punch that it’s counting on to deliver knockout blows to many opponents this season.
The Panthers got 28 points from Anthony Cukaj and 21 from Martell Turner to lead Roseville to a 74-44 victory against New Haven Wednesday in a battle of defending Macomb Area Conference division champions.
“Those are the two guys we were most excited about coming into the season,” said Panthers coach Hassan Nizam. “What makes us even more excited is that 1-2 combo is strong but the supporting cast is strong. We have other guys who can make shots and make plays. It’s a blessing to have as a coach.
“That 1-2 punch is unselfish, too. Anthony and Martell pick and choose their spots very well, knowing when to attack and when not to attack.”
Cukaj got Roseville off to a good start with 13 points in the first quarter when the Panthers opened up a 22-16 lead.
“Things just fell into place,” Cukaj said. “On the first bucket of the game we beat the press, Troye Williams hit me for a layup and everything else just fell into place on offense. We didn’t force anything and that’s how the whole game went.”
New Haven bounced back with a strong second quarter and took a 29-26 lead to the locker room after Brent Wiles hit a buzzer beater from just inside mid court.
The second half was all Roseville. The Panthers scored the first eight points of the third quarter and outscored the Rockets 28-6 in the period. Turner scored 13 points in the third quarter, many of them coming in transition after forcing turnovers.
“We knew we had to pick it up and play some defense,” Turner said. “We knew we had to pick up the energy and keep it going. We were playing sluggish. If we wanted to win this game we had to play some defense. Defense wins games.”
Defense and rebounding were the keys to Roseville’s co-championship in the MAC Red last season and Nazim was happy to see this team return to those basic fundamentals after a loss in the season opener.
“The plan tonight was to play 32 minutes of fiery defense,” he said. “We wanted to get back to playing Roseville basketball. We established who we were the last two years but every team is independent of itself. This year’s team had to establish its identity and what better way to do it than tonight?
“When anybody asked me what our expectations were, I said if we can defend and rebound like we did last year we’re going to be better. If these guys let me remove that ‘if’ special things are going to happen. We did that in the second half. We held a very, very well-coached team that runs an offense that is very difficult to prepare for to 15 points in the second half. That’s 100 percent credit to our guys.”
New Haven coach Tedaro France II was encouraged by the way the Rockets came back in the second quarter, but admitted there’s still a lot of work to be done before New Haven can defend its MAC White championship.
“We played a great first half,” France said .”In the second half we made some mistakes but we’re still young. We’re trying to get better day-by-day. Our second quarter shows we have a good base to build from. Now we have to continue to work hard, watch film, learn from our mistakes and come back the next day and just get better.
“Our guards are young and (Roseville) pressures the ball real well. Once they get more confidence we’ll handle the press a lot better.”
Wiles led New Haven with 17 points, including 13 in the first half. Delano Sanders added 11 points off the bench for Roseville.
New Haven (0-1): Tyree France 7, Brent Wiles 17, Ja’me McQueen 2, Brandon Lisco 7, Michael Williams Jr. 3, Trevon Jeffery 2, Dezmond Gilleylen 2, Zander Weaver 1, JaQuan Kincaid 3. Totals: 16 (4) 8-12—44.
Roseville (1-1): Martell Turner 21, Jaheim Swaizey 4, Anthony Cukaj 28, Jason Hunter 3, Tyree Anderson 3, Delano Sanders 11, Anthony Rosati 4. Totals: 31 (6) 6-11—74.