New Haven's basketball team is going to get everyone's best shot for the rest of the year.
That's what happens when a team is 17-0 and ranked near the top of the state polls.
Rockets coach Tedaro France II doesn't mind having that bulls-eye on his back.
"I'm glad we have games like this," France said Thursday after New Haven held off an inspired Ford team 73-64 in a Macomb Area Conference crossover game that was The Macomb Daily Game of the Week. "That will prepare us for the state tournament and it will humble these kids knowing that we're going to get the best from each team.
"A team may be having a bad year but they're going to play big against us. We're going to get their best. We have to prepare for that every time. We have a big bulls-eye on our back."
New Haven struggled some against the Falcons' half-court trap and committed 18 first-half turnovers. The game was tied at 26-all at halftime on Ford's Alex Ott's 3-point buzzer beater.
"I have to take my hat off to Ford," France said. "They played a great game and had a great game plan. We had kind of a slow start but that was because (Ford) came out with great fire.
"At the end of the year teams prepare well. We have to learn how to win close games. We're learning how to play when the game is close. Sometimes when you play with a big lead you can't really learn."
The turnovers were part of Ford's game plan.
"Based on what we saw on film, we thought we could get after them and force some turnovers," said Falcons coach Jeff Olson. "They're big and they use that to their advantage. They're tough to beat but we thought we could pressure their guards a little bit and that kept us in the game.
The Rockets made one of their patented runs early in the second half, outscoring the Falcons 16-6 to open a 42-32 lead with just under four minutes to play in the third quarter. Innocent Nwoko capped the run with a pair of baskets, including an emphatic dunk.
New Haven led 48-39 after three quarters and had its biggest lead of the game, 56-41, midway through the fourth quarter after a layup by Dmonta Harris, who led the Rockets with 24 points.
"One bad quarter and that was the ball game," Olson said. "It was a run that was fueled by the fact that we struggled to defensive rebound. It might have been 10-1 in offensive rebounds (for New Haven) in the third quarter.
"it's tough to come back from that but we did and we made it interesting. I'm proud of our effort. We executed the game plan and I feel good about it. I told my boys it was good but not good enough. They're a great team, extremely well-coached and they're going to do a lot of good things this year but our kids battled."
Ford closed the gap to 62-56 on a 3-point basket by Alex Iafrate with 1:55 remaining. It was one of nine triples by the Falcons. New Haven hit just enough free throws down the stretch to maintain its lead. The back-breaker for Ford was when New Haven's Marquis Perkins hit a short jump shot and Josh Harris stole the in-bounds pass and made a basket to extend the Rockets' lead to 70-59 with 1:05 left.
"Our kids never quit," France said. "Ford shot the ball well. They struggled coming inside against us but they knocked down some 3-point shots. We didn't play well as a team but we made plays at key times when we needed them. We played hard but we didn't always play real smart. We made some bad decisions, but that'll improve with more experience."
Austin Sherrell had 11 points and nine rebounds for New Haven. Nwoko scored 10 points and Jerry Ben pulled down eight rebounds.
Sammy Rizzo led Ford with 21 points. Sophomores Donnie Schuster and Iafrate scored 12 and 11 points, respectively. Sean Russell collected seven rebounds.