By: Daniel Stickradt
BOYS BASKETBALL: Clarkston stomps West Bloomfield to advance to first Class A state finals
BY DAN STICKRADT
EAST LANSING — It took some 100 years of boys basketball, but Clarkston will finally play for a state title.
The third-ranked Wolves blitzed OAA Red Division league rival West Bloomfield for
the third time this season, 78-35, Friday afternoon at Michigan State University’s Breslin Center.
Clarkston will face top-ranked and unbeaten Grand Rapids Christian, 74-52 winners Friday over Romulus, in Saturday’s 12 p.m. Class A State Finals at the Breslin Center.
“This means a lot to this community,” said veteran Clarkston coach Dan Fife. “These kids have worked so hard to get to this point. We’ve had some very good teams that were never able to get (to the final day).”
Clarkston (26-1) shot a sizzling 68.8 percent from the floor in the first half (15-for-26) and 57.4 percent for the game (27-for-47) in recording its first state semifinals win in school history.
Previously, Clarkston lost in the 1980 semifinals to Highland Park (51-50) and again in 2009 to Kalamazoo Central (58-44).
Not this time, as the Wolves attacked viciously from the opening tip and building a 5-0 lead after the first 1:41.
“When were playing like that on all cylinders, we’re hard to beat,” smiled Fife, who recorded his 676th win over 36 seasons. “We moved the ball around well, we rebounded well and we got the ball out. We got a lot of shots in transition. I think our defense was really good today.
“We knew we were going to have problems with (Kevin McAdoo),” continued Fife. “But I thought we did a good job on him defensively. And he’s an outstanding player.”
Clarkston recorded 17 assists on 27 made baskets, committed only four turnovers, shot 50 percent from outside the three-point arc (8-for-16) and 72.7 percent from the charity stripe (16-for-22). The Wolves also out-rebounded the Lakers, 35-27.
West Bloomfield shot only 6-for-22 (27.3 percent) in the first half and couldn’t stop Clarkston’s well-oiled machine.
The Lakers overall made only 11-of-50 shots from the floor in the contest (22 percent) and only 6-for-22 from downtown (27.3 percent).
“We were moving the ball really well, didn't force up many shots and we executed (on both ends of the floor),” said senior forward Dylan Alderson. “All of our cuts and back cuts were strong. Our screens were perfect and we just played as a team.”
The Wolves led 24-13 after the first quarter and 42-24 at the half. Clarkston’s lead swelled to as many as 20 points at the mid-point of the second stanza.
Michigan State recruit Foster Loyer orchestrated the Wolves’ offensive onslaught, as the junior provided a game-high 32 points — 20 in the first half — to go along with seven assists, three steals and three rebounds.
The Wisconsin-Milwaukee signee Alderson added 27 points and five boards, while 6-foot-9 sophomore center Taylor Currie cleaned up on the boards with 16 rebounds, 10 points and three blocks for Clarkston.
Junior guard CJ Robinson finished with five points and three assists to go along with his pesky defense on the opposition's backcourt.
“He goes out there and sacrifices a lot for the team playing defense the way he does,” said Fife of Robinson. “He always guards the other team’s top guards.”
Clarkston continued to pour it onto the Lakers in the third quarter, outscoring West Bloomfield (17-9) by a 22-6 margin for a 64-30 advantage.
“It’s about coming out with that mindset of you have to be in attack mode,” said Loyer. “You’ve got to throw that first punch. Tonight we were able to come out and I hit a couple of shots early.”
The Wolves held a 14-5 scoring edge in the fourth quarter, which featured a running clock and Clarkston going to the end of its bench after playing a eight-man rotation for the first 3.5 quarters.
McAdoo paced West Bloomfield (17-9) with 22 points. Senior guard Tyler Davis added eight points and six rebounds for the Lakers, who only had four players reach the scoring column.
“I don’t want to take anything away from Clarkston. They are a great team,” said West Bloomfield coach Jeremy Denha. “We played them close twice in the regular season. The game just got away from us. They couldn't miss (in the first quarter). Foster Lower couldn't miss. It’s hard to stay in a game when the other team is making shots like that.”
GRAND RAPIDS CHRISTIAN 74, ROMULUS 52: Grand Rapids Christian took another step towards perfection Friday afternoon at Michigan State University’s Breslin Center.
The top-ranked Eagles moved to 27-0 with this 22-point win in the Class A state semifinals to set up a marquee 12 p.m. Saturday date with No. 3 Clarkston in the Class A state finals.
Grand Rapids Christian trailed 28-27 at the half, before outscoring Romulus 47-24 over the final two quarters.
The Eagles landed four players in double figures, led by James Beck’s 24 points and nine rebounds. Duane Washington Jr. added 15 points and six assists, Setrick Millner contributed 11 points and five rebounds and Thad Shymanski chipped in with 10 points.
Mr. Basketball finalist Xavier Tillman had five points with eight rebounds, seven blocks and six assists in the win for Grand Rapids Christian.
Romulus was paced by Kaevon Merriweather’s 18 points, while Jaren English added 17 points and Dylan Price scored 12 points for the Eagles (21-5).