By: Daniel Stickradt
BOYS BASKETBALL: Clarkston avenges Dakota to reach regional finals
BY DAN STICKRADT
GRAND BLANC — Clarkston has been in revenge mode for one year.
The Wolves finally gained their long-awaited measure of payback on the school that ended their season last March.
Junior guard Foster Loyer finished with a game-high 31 points and fourth-ranked Clarkston cruised by seventh-ranked Macomb Dakota, 68-48, Monday in a Class A regional semifinal at Grand Blanc High School.
Dakota, which came into Monday’s game on a 17-game win streak, defeated Clarkston in the regional semifinals last season in double overtime, 68-66.
Clarkston (23-1) will play Rochester Stoney Creek in the regional finals Wednesday at 7 p.m., also at Grand Blanc.
“This was great motivation. They beat us twice last year — once they kicked our butts in their gym and then beat us at the buzzer in the regional,” smiled veteran Clarkston coach Dan Fife. “I didn't need to remind them of that.”
Trailing 15-10 late in the first quarter, Lower drained a three-pointer to end the frame and bring the score down to 15-13. Clarkston opened the second period with a 10-0 run, while Lower also drained a last-second three at the end of the second quarter to give the Wolves a 37-24 lead at the half.
Clarkston dominated the offensive glass and never allowed the Cougars to close to less than nine points in the second half.
“Coach Fife, that’s what he preaches, crashing the boards and playing defense,” said Loyer. “I think that’s what we tried to do.
“That feeling last year in the locker room is what motivated us to work all summer long and all through this winter,” continued Loyer. “We weren’t necessarily preparing to play Dakota, but just getting the team ready to go win that big game. We came out tonight and made some shots early, looked to attack and play our brand of basketball. We came out and did the right things to put ourselves in position to win.”
Clarkston maintained its lead at 45-35 through three quarters of play, as Dakota (20-4) held an 11-8 scoring edge in the third period.
Dakota closed to within 47-38 with 7:19 to play on a three-pointer by senior forward Brett Droski.
Clarkston responded with three straight deep bombs in a 1:31 span — two by Lower and one by 6-5 senior forward Dylan Anderson — that gave the Wolves a 56-38 cushion with 5:01 still to play in the fourth.
Dakota could get no closer than 16 point the rest of the way. Clarkston outscored the Cougars 23-13 in the fourth quarter.
“There’s no excuses. Clarkston played very well tonight and we did not,” said Dakota coach Paul Tocco. “We did not come with our A-Game. We struggled offensively and they executed on their end. I thought we competed, but we just struggled making shots. I thought we should have taken advantage of them in certain places, such as down low with our size. But we were unable to do that.”
Jermaine Jackson led Dakota (20-4) with 15 points, but was held to just two second-half points for the Cougars. Junior forward Thomas Kilthier, a 6-8 Michigan State commit, added 12 points, while 6-9 senior center Jack Ballantyne scored 11 with eight rebounds and senior forward Jaylen Hall scored seven points for Dakota.
Anderson, headed for Wisconsin-Milwaukee, added 18 points, junior guard Nick Wells chipped in with seven points, junior guard CJ Robinson twined six points with four assists and 6-9 sophomore center Taylor Currie had six points and seven rebounds for Clarkston.
“I thought we got after it (defensively). We guarded, we went after rebounds,” said Fife. “That’s what I ask of them is to go out and play hard and do those things. I thought we did them well for most of the game.”