It didn’t take long for New Haven to wrap its hands around its second straight Class B boys basketball district championship trophy.
The Rockets charged out to a 22-14 lead after one quarter, before extending that advantage to 40-26 at halftime, coasting past Clintondale 75-52at Marysville on Friday.
“I knew we had to come out and meet (Clintondale’s) speed and quickness,” New Haven coach Tedaro France II said. “Our kids did a great job. We kept our composure and made plays down the stretch. Our kids played defense, denying their kids a chance to get to the basket.
“I’m just proud of this group,” France added. “We started off as a young group, but our three seniors (Innocent Nwoko, Jerry Ben and Alante Stevens) stepped up this year and led this group. I’m happy for them. This is back-to-back championships for them.”
New Haven used its size and speed to its advantage, especially early on, as Romeo Weems, Eric Williams Jr. and Ben each scored eight points in the first half, while Tavares Oliver added six points.
“We played about as well as we could have,” Clintondale coach Rob Townsend said. “It’s hard to simulate (New Haven’s) speed and their size. There’s no way for us to do that and I think the adjustment caught us. They were a few points better than us each quarter.”
The Rockets put the game away in the third quarter, outscoring the Dragons 16-12 in the period, pushing their edge to 56-38 heading into the final period. Williams scored seven points to lead the charge in the stanza.
“Eric has been playing consistent for us all year,” France said. “I knew he could score, but the best thing is that he’s improved his defense. It’s great to see.”
Williams paced three Rocket players to reach double figures with 22 points, while Romeo Weems added 17 points to go with 10 rebounds, five assists, three blocks and three steals. Nwoko contributed 11 points and 11 rebounds, while Stevens finished with five assists.
“We say we’re just not a team, but we’re a family,” France said. “We had some up and downs, but they stayed strong and I’m proud of them.”
The win improved New Haven’s record to 20-2 overall and moved the Rockets into Monday night’s regional semifinal at Imlay City where they will face Detroit Country Day, which defeated Michigan Collegiate 55-51 in their district title game on Friday night. Game time is set for 7:30 p.m.
“Now we have to say we have to win to play another day,” France said. “It’s one step at a time and one day. We have to keep working hard and play each game like it’s our last, because it may be.”
Clintondale was paced by seniors Jordan Jackson with 16 points, and Isaiah Hasan with 13 points. Townsend said he couldn’t have asked more from these two seniors.
“That’s what you want a senior to do,” Townsend said. “We knew New Haven wasn’t going to let Isaiah go off like he did on Wednesday night (semifinal win over St. Clair), and Jordan is that kind of player. They really showed what a senior can do.”
The loss ended Clintondale’s season at 10-13 overall.
“Our record was deceiving this season because we had seven games where we had a single possession loss,” Townsend said. “The mantra was to improve all year and we really did. We peaked at the right time, but we weren’t quite there tonight.”