By Chuck Pleiness
New Haven boys basketball coach Tedaro France II kept his squad in the locker room at halftime a little extra longer to make a point on Thursday night.
His Rockets heard him loud and clear.
New Haven responded with 24-6 third quarter and cruised to a 79-50 win over Michigan Collegiate to claim the Rocket Holiday Classic championship.
“We had to talk over some things,” France II said. “We had to calm them down. We rushed some. We just had to relax and play our own game.
“We couldn’t come out lax on the defensive end,” France II continued. “If we were going to be lax there we were going to be lax on offense. We needed to turn our defense into offense and that’s just what we did.”
Things started to pick up defensively for the Rockets (4-1) to close out the first half as they finished on an 8-2 run.
“Games are won and lost in the first five minutes of a third quarter,” France II said. “We wanted to come out and set the tempo there.
“I also told them, we can have an off night shooting the ball, but we should never have an off night defensively,” France II added.
New Haven started the third quarter on a 10-0 run, which was highlighted by back-to-back dunks from Eric Williams Jr. and Romeo Weems.
“I wasn’t calm,” France II admitted after the game about his halftime talk to his team. “I’m calm now. We had to calm down some. We just had to play our game, don’t rush and stay to what we do. Don’t do more, don’t do less, just do your job.”
Weems finished with a triple-double for the Rockets – 25 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists. He also had four blocks and four steals.
“We should never have an off night on team defense,” France II said. “What we do starts from there. Our first drill each year is a defensive drill. Kids know if they want to play here you have to defend.
“We can turn our defense into offense, into transition points,” France II continued. “The kids are starting to understand that and that allows you to score in so many different ways instead of jump shots or going to the basket. We can get points off our defense.”
Eric Williams Jr. chipped in 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds, while AJ Crawford III followed with 11 and Tavares Oliver Jr. finished with 10 points. Ashton Sherrell grabbed 10 boards and Crawford totaled four assists.
“I just our guys succumb to turnovers,” Michigan Collegiate coach Anthony Tolbert said. “Our whole thing coming into the game was take care of the ball, take care of the ball. Don’t shorten the court. Don’t make it easy on them.
When the turnovers started to rack up it was just a huge mountain to overcome. It’s like a faucet, once it turns on it’s hard to turn off. They make you pay. When you turn the ball over they make you pay.”
Antonio Simley led the Cougars (5-1) with 18 points and Ty Lawrence netted 10.
“I thought we played tough, but defensively I don’t think we communicated well enough,” Tolbert said. “Their length combined with their athleticism is hard to overcome.
“It’s basic, fake a pass, make a pass,” Tolbert added. “Those are things we practice all the time. In the heat of the moment, when things are going, they just lose focus on that.”