For the first time this postseason, New Haven was tested. How the Rockets responded went a long way in deciding the outcome.
A 7-0 Marysville run to start the second quarter cut the New Haven lead to one with just over five minutes to play in the half; the Rockets countered with a 14-2 surge of their own and closed out the half on a 16-5 run, going on to a 71-42 victory in the District 56 championship game Friday night at Marysville.
It marks the third straight district title for the Rockets.
“We started off slow and we took a few bad shots, but we picked it up,” New Haven’s Eric Williams Jr. said after the game. “We were just stagnant on offense, but once we started moving the ball, it really opened everything up.”
Williams ignited the Rocket offense with a game-high 28 points, 17 of which came in the second half. Ashton Sherrell finished with 15 points for New Haven and Romeo Weems added 11.
Through the first 11 minutes, the Rockets (22-1; 10-0 MAC Blue) were unable to shake free of the Vikings (16-7; 7-3 MAC Silver), as Marysville kept finding ways to answer the bell.
With its lead down to 18-17 with 5:01 to play, and coming out of a time out, New Haven returned to form.
“We came out and rushed some shots, so that time out calmed us down,” New Haven head coach Tedaro France II said. “From there, we were patient and we ran our sets…of course that all starts on the defensive run.”
The Rockets got clean looks — and benefitted from several second and third chances— and bothered Viking shooters on the other end, opening up a 32-19 lead with 2:30 remaining in the half.
New Haven took a 34-22 lead into the locker room at halftime.
“We want to limit teams to one contested shot per possession and extend ours,” France II said. “We assume all shots are a miss, because second-chance points are huge.”
New Haven’s defense locked in during the third quarter, outscoring Marysville 18-7— capped by Williams’ fall-away 3-pointer at the buzzer — which all but put the game out of reach.
Dylan Kiger scored a Marysville-best 16 points in his final game in a Viking uniform. Fellow senior Ross Hinkley finished with 10 points in the loss.
“We just wanted to keep it close,” Marysville coach Ryan Biewer said. “We almost had to play perfect. As soon as one turnover happened and we gave up a basket…then it became two then three.
“In a game like this, against a team like that, we can’t afford any mistakes.”
Although his team trailed by double digits the entire second half, Biewer said he was proud of the way his team battled to the end.
“We did not play to the scoreboard, and that’s what the program is built on,” he said. “We’re not very fancy, but we try to do the right thing and do it all the time.”
France II said his team wasn’t at its best Friday night, but the approach won’t change the deeper they go into the tournament.
“It wasn’t our best game, but in March you just have to win and advance,” he said. “We want to stay consistently good.
“You don’t have to do too much, just do your job and do the small things.”
New Haven advances to the Region 14 semifinal against Flint Northwestern on Monday, March 13 at North Branch. Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m.