MARYSVILLE - They made history.
Throughout the season, the New Haven High School basketball team has been on a mission. The Rockets desperately want to win a Class B state title. But first things first, New Haven had to get out of the state quarterfinal round, where it had fallen victim the past three years.
On Tuesday, New Haven finally took that step with a 73-66 victory over Detroit Osborn at Marysville High School. It is the first time in school history New Haven (25-1) has advanced to the state semifinal round.
New Haven (25-1) will face the winner of the Benton Harbor-Spring Lake contest at 6 p.m. Friday at the Breslin Center in East Lansing.
"I take my hat off to them, they played a great game," New Haven coach Tedaro France II said. "We didn't play our best game. But in March, it's win and advance. We can learn from that. I'm proud of this group of kids because they never got down. They stayed strong."
AJ Crawford scored 20 points to go along with 11 rebounds to lead New Haven. Eric Williams added 16 points, 13 rebounds and three assists. Romeo Weems had 15 points, 13 rebounds, eight assists, three blocks and three steals, and Ronald Jeffrey had 10 points.
Armonee Felter had 21 points on five 3-pointers to lead Detroit Osborn and James Loyd added 17 points.
"We came out and wanted to win so bad," Weems said. "I'm just happy. All of this hard work we have done. The 5 a.m. workouts we've had until now. I'm just so happy for my fellas. Everyone stepped up big. Everyone played hard. This is history for this school. We're over the hump now."
It wasn't easy. Detroit Osborn gave New Haven its best shot and the game remained up for grabs late. But after struggling to make is free throws for much of the fourth quarter, New Haven was able to hold the Knights off.
"It was a close game but I thought we defended well," Williams said. "It's an honor to play here. Me coming in two years ago, it's been great. It's been great to be successful."
After a back-and-forth first quarter, New Haven led 12-9. That lead grew in the second quarter and New Haven was able to take a 34-26 halftime advantage. The intensity really began to increase as the second half started. New Haven clung to its advantage, while Detroit Osborn desperately tried to keep pace. Then, Armonee Felter caught fire.
The Osborn senior guard took over the game, making three consecutive 3-pointers while pulling the Knights back into the game. When the dust settled, the teams were right back where they started, deadlocked at 52-52 entering the final quarter.
Once there, New Haven quickly entered the bonus and shortly thereafter, the double bonus. But the Rockets struggled to make their free throws and the Knights were able to remain in the game as their fouls piled up.
With 3:55 left, New Haven had the ball leading 60-57. They had the same three-point advantage a minute later when Tavares Oliver Jr. split a pair of free throws to give New Haven a 66-62 lead with 2:30 left in the game.
Despite their best efforts, Detroit Osborn couldn't find a way to come all the way back once again and New Haven made a few key free throws to keep the Knights at bay.
"I'm so proud of how far they came," France II said. "It's our fifth time here in school history and to be able to take this next step and be the first team in school history to do this shows how hard they worked all year."