New Haven boys basketball coach Tedaro France II is the first to tell people how skilled Ronald Jeffery III is.
The problem is, with a heavily recruited junior on the floor and two seniors playing alongside him, not many people take him seriously.
After what Jeffery did Tuesday night in a state Class B quarterfinal game, opposing coaches just might start paying more attention to the Rockets’ junior guard.
Jeffery led New Haven offensively with 29 points to lead his squad past Bridgeport, 78-72, and into a semifinal game against Grand Rapids Catholic Central at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Michigan State University’s Breslin Center.
“We have Romeo (Weems) of course and Ashton (Sherrell) and Tavares (Oliver Jr.) and they sometimes overshadow him, but he does so many things for us,” France said. “He’s just been having great games for us.
“He defends, he can knock down his shots and plays really smart,” France continued. “He’s the type of kid that in games like this he comes out and steps up big. I’m just so proud of him because he works so hard. He lives for games like this.”
With Weems unable to get anything going offensively in this lose-and-go-home game against the Bearcats, Jeffery scored eight points in each of the first two quarters.
“Sometimes you’re not going to have great games, that’s why we have teammates,” France said. “It’s an ultimate team game so we have to pick each other up. You’re not going to have your best night each night, but as a group you keep on going and pick each other up.”
Most of Jeffery’s buckets in the first half came on the fastbreak.
“He stepped up in the right time,” Weems said. “Ronald just kept playing well, hitting shots and attacking. He was real aggressive the whole game.
“He was something,” Weems continued. “I could pass the ball to him and take it off my shoulders. He kept me in the game and kept me going.”
Weems finished with 13 points.
“He just came out jumping and attacking,” said Weems, who also had 10 rebounds, five blocks, four assists and three steals. “He was in go-mode, attack-mode. He wanted it just like everyone wanted it in here.”
The Rockets figured after watching film they could run on Bridgeport.
“We got the rebounds and I got out and ran,” Jeffery said.
In the third quarter, Jeffery then stepped back and drained three triples.
Bridgeport coach Kevin Marshall Sr. admitted his team’s focus was shutting down Weems and not limiting Jeffery.
“Our focus was shut down the big fella (Weems) and make him work,” Marshall said. “We got a little lackadaisical on (Jeffery) and he hit us with some big shots. He’s a good shooter.”
He finished with four points in the fourth quarter.
“They doubled (Weems) the whole game so someone had to step up and make shots,” Jeffery said. “I knocked down my first few shots so I kept shooting.”
But there is room for improvement for Jeffery.
“No it was not,” France said when asked if this was one of Jeffery’s better games. “It was a great game for him, but he’s played a lot better.”
“It wasn’t my best game defensively that’s for sure,” Jeffery said. “I don’t think it’s OK. I have to step up.”
Jeffery also finished with seven boards, five assists and four steals.
“If I’m not playing good defense I try to find a way to impact the game in a positive way,” Jeffery said. “I was scoring and kept trying to rebound. I boxed out better than I usually do.”
The Rockets (26-0) are the defending state champs and have won 52 games in a row.
“Everyone is going at our necks now because we’re undefeated and state champions,” Jeffery said. “We have to come out and play every team the same way. We can’t let down against anyone.”
Benton Harbor (25-1) meets River Rouge (23-1) at 5:30 p.m. in the other semifinal. The championship game is Saturday at 6:45 p.m.