CORUNNA >> New Haven is going back to the Breslin Center. But not without a fight.
Ronald Jeffery III scored 29 points to lead the foul-plagued Rockets to a 78-72 victory over Bridgeport in a Class B quarterfinal boys basketball game at Corunna on Tuesday night.
Tavares Oliver Jr. and Romeo Weems added 13 points apiece for New Haven (26-0), which will play Grand Rapids Catholic Central at 7:30 p.m. Friday in a state semifinal at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, where last year the Rockets won the second state crown in county history.
“I just went out and played hard,” Jeffery said. “We got into some foul trouble, and my teammates gave me the ball. They put me in a position to score some points.”
Junior Jamir Farrior made two free throws with 21.5 seconds left for a 75-68 lead and Weems added a free throw with 19.2 seconds left that put New Haven ahead 76-69 in a game that drew a capacity crowd, including Michigan State coach Tom Izzo.
Senior Charles Garrett scored 36 points and junior SirQuarius Ball 21 for Bridgeport (24-2).
The Rockets have won 52 games in a row.
“They showed me they had my back,” Weems said of his teammates, who weathered stretch after he went to the bench with four fouls and New Haven leading 43-37 with 3:46 left in the third quarter. “Offensively, I didn’t play too well. Ronald played his butt off, give him a lot of credit.
“He was going crazy tonight. It was probably the best game he’s had.”
Ascaun Johnson had consecutive field goals, the second a triple, to give New Haven a 69-59 lead with 2:20 left in the game.
Ball made two free throws to pull the Bearcats to within 62-59 with 4:28 left in the game.
That was the closest the Tri-Valley Conference champions had been in some time against the defending state champions.
Fouls started to mount against New Haven in the third quarter.
Weems was whistled for his third and fourth fouls and Sherrell his third.
Jeffery made a pair of 3-pointers, one from each corner, and Johnson stole the ball and drove for a layup as the Rockets built a 48-41 lead.
Ashton Sherrell sank a free throw with 1:09 left in the quarter for a 50-41 lead.
And Jeffery wasn’t finished.
His triple with 24 seconds left in the quarter put New Haven ahead 53-43, and Oliver added two free throws a moment later for the 55-43 lead the Rockets took into the fourth.
Weems returned to the game and sank a triple for a 58-47 lead with 7:05 to play.
After Bridgeport cut the lead to 60-54, Jeffery turned playmaker with an assist to Sherrell, whose bucket gave New Haven a 62-54 lead with five minutes to play.
Jeffery scored 14 points and Oliver 11 to help New Haven build a 36-26 halftime lead.
Bridgeport led 7-2 in the first 1:23 of the game, but Jeffery had the Rockets’ first eight points of the game and helped the MAC Blue Division champions build a 17-13 by the end of an opening quarter that also featured seven points from Oliver.
Grand Rapids Catholic Central (23-2) advanced with a 65-43 victory over Boyne City.
Benton Harbor (25-1) plays River Rouge (23-1) in the other semifinal at 5:30 p.m. Friday.
CLASS A: De La Salle reaches semifinals with victory over U-D Jesuit.