By Chuck Pleiness
MARYSVILLE >> Romeo Weems was not going to leave a boys state quarterfinal basketball game disappointed for a second consecutive season.
And the highly sought sophomore guard did not.
Weems finished with a double-double – 15 points, 13 rebounds – to go along with eight assists, three blocks and three steals to lead New Haven over Detroit Osborn, 73-66, in a Class B quarterfinal final Tuesday at Marysville High School.
“We’ve seen this before and I just got on my guys hard and we came out and performed well,” Weems said of his post-timeout huddle with his teammates and the game tied at 52 to begin the fourth quarter. “We played really hard. We didn’t perform all that well, but I think this is the hardest game we’ve played all year. Now that I know we can play that hard, our shots are going to fall and with all that hard work we’re going to be tough to stop.”
New Haven had lost four previous trips to the quarters, including each of the last two seasons to Detroit Henry Ford.
“I’ve been thinking about last year forever,” Weems said. “That’s been my chip on my shoulder. We can’t lose like that anymore. Fourth quarter came and something just clicked and I just had to do whatever it took to keep us playing.”
The Rockets (25-1) will meet Benton Harbor, which advanced past Spring Lake 46-44, in a Class B state semifinal on Friday at 6 p.m. at the Breslin Center on the campus of Michigan State University.
“Everyone that is back from last year remembers what it felt like,” Weems said. “We were just that much more experienced and wanted it that much more.”
New Haven has won 24 games in a row. Its only loss was to Dakota.
“It’s big,” said Weems, who left Lake Shore High School in tears last season after the loss to Henry Ford. “We finally got over the hump. I hated that feeling. I hate to lose at all. I just didn’t want to lose. To me this is more than a game. I just go out and play my heart out like it’s my last game because I don’t want to lose.
“We just played real hard,” Weems added. “Those balls that I couldn’t get before I got in the fourth quarter. I wanted it that bad.”
AJ Crawford III led New Haven with 20 points and grabbed 11 boards. Eric Williams Jr. followed with 16 points, 13 rebounds and three assists, while Ronald Jeffery II added 10 points.
“We came in with a plan and a goal and we achieved it,” Williams said. “Last year I think we came in a little timid and inexperienced. This year was different.”
The Rockets outscored Detroit Osborn 21-14 in the fourth quarter to snap a 52-52 tie.
It wasn’t the prettiest of New Haven’s performances this season, which was highlighted by going 16-of-34 from the free-throw line.
“I don’t know what it was,” Williams said. “We couldn’t hit free throws. We couldn’t hit shots. It was an off night for us, but we played with heart and we played hard and that’s what got us the win.”
Ashton Sherrell tossed in eight points to go along with 11 rebounds and four assists.
“To take this next step and be the first team in school history to reach this just shows how hard these kids have worked all year,” New Haven coach Tedaro France II said. “We’ve been through a lot of ups and downs. They know that through failure comes success. We’ve failed a lot.
“I just tell them to win the day,” France continued. “I’m so proud of them because they never folded. We got down, but they stayed as a group and kept fighting.”
Armonee Felder led the Knights, who were 5-of-10 from the free-throw line, with 21 points. Kenneth Holloway added 18 and James Lloyd added 17.
“Good teams find ways to win,” France said. “We missed our free throws and yet still be a great team to accomplish a goal and did something that has never been done before.”
River Rouge and Ludington will meet in the other semifinal at 7:50 p.m. The Class B state championship is Saturday at 6:30 p.m.
“You can’t teach experience,” France said. “They kept fighting. It’s not our best game by far, but we never quit. That’s all you can ask for.”