Richard Rojeski and Dearborn Heights Crestwood, 22-1, set a school record for wins this season. (Bryan Mitchell / Special to The Detroit News)
Dearborn Heights — When a team hasn’t won a district title, a coach can’t take anything for granted.
Last season, Mike Bright, the head coach at Dearborn Heights Crestwood, had confidence his team would break through and win the school’s first boys district basketball title. Crestwood faced Dearborn Fordson in the final and succumbed to the pressure, losing handily, 46-29.
With eight seniors this season, Bright again had high hopes for that elusive title.
Crestwood ended the drama early on Friday as it shot to a 21-0 lead at the end of the first quarter and went on to defeat Allen Park, 59-35, in a Class A district final at Lincoln Park.
“Our guys came out with so much effort,” Bright said. “That was our best first quarter of the year.”
In a season of firsts, Crestwood (22-1) set a school record for victories in a season and will climb further up the mountain on Monday as it will face defending state champion Romulus (19-4) in a region semifinal at Saline at 6 p.m.
“Our goal at the beginning of the season,” Bright said, “was, like, let’s get this district. I was concerned a little with the (weak) schedule we played. I knew my guys would be ready. (The seniors) leadership and work ethic was huge. It rubbed off on everybody else. Our defense got better as the season progressed.”
Senior guard Billy Abduljami had 15 points against Allen Park and his brother, Esa, a junior, had 13. Ali Mallah, a senior point guard, completes Bright’s three-guard lineup.
Crestwood is a heavy underdog against Romulus and Bright said that could be a good thing.
“Nobody expects us to win,” he said. “Maybe we’ll shock the world.”
Warren Mott opened in 1965 and it, too, won its first district title on Friday. Senior forward Kenny Goins had 12 points, seven rebounds and three blocks, and junior Derek Murphy had 15 points as Mott defeated Warren DeLaSalle, 57-53, in the Class A district final at Fraser.
Coach Jeff Olind is in his second season as a head coach, both at Mott, after spending a handful of seasons as an assistant at Auburn Hills Avondale and Grosse Pointe South. Mott was good enough to win the title last season but lost to Warren Cousino, 59-55, in a semifinal.
Mott (19-4) will play Roseville (14-8), a team it defeated twice during the season, at Macomb Dakota at 5 p.m.
Mott trailed DeLaSalle, 18-6, after the first quarter when Olind challenged his players.
“I asked them if they were ready to play now,” he said. “DeLaSalle was running their offense and when you allow them to do that, they’re going to score. We stepped up our defensive pressure, started trapping some at midcourt.”
Mott never trailed in the second half and a big reason for that was the play of Angelo Proulx, an all-state defensive back, who guards the opponents’ top player whether it’s in the post or a point guard. His assignment against DeLaSalle was forward Kevin McKay, who had 16 points. Proulx prevented McKay from being a dominant factor inside.
PSL also-rans making impact
Detroit Pershing defeated Detroit Southeastern, 59-58 in overtime, for its second consecutive Detroit Public School League title, but Pershing was upset in a Class A district final on Friday by Detroit Cass Tech, 78-73.
Southeastern (16-7) eliminated Cass Tech in the PSL semifinals and both are in the regional at Cass Tech. Southeastern trailed Detroit East English Village Prep by 19 points in the third quarter before storming back for a 59-49 victory at Grosse Pointe North.
Cass Tech lost in the district final to Pershing last season, letting a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter slip away.
“The guys learned a lot from last year,” Cass Tech coach David Dixon said. “It’s just about being tough enough mentally. We led by 14 points on Friday and Pershing doesn’t quit. Pershing makes difficult shots. It feels good any time you win a championship, and especially against Pershing.”
Pershing cut the deficit to 74-73 with a minute to play on a deep 3-pointer by Darsean Woodson, but Cass Tech was able to make its free throws down the stretch to hold on.
Southeastern coach George Ward said he didn’t give any enlightening speeches to pump up his players against East English. Most of what he told them was to tighten up defensively.
“We were a little tense,” he said. “What we can do is defend. We will grind it out. We don’t gamble defensively. We were turning it over too much and missing shots we normally make. I just asked the seniors, is this how you’re going to go out? They played in the second half. They competed.”
Tougher schedule pays off
Madison Heights Bishop Foley will take an 11-11 record into tonight’s Class C regional semifinal against Harper Woods. Few care whether a team lost 11 games or one, just as long as you advance.
Bishop Foley trailed Southfield Bradford Academy by eight points after three quarters on Friday before coming back to win, 57-55, thanks in part to Nick Pepin’s 26 points.
Bishop Foley coach Marc West added nonleague games against Class A teams such as Troy, Troy Athens, Birmingham Brother Rice, DeLaSalle and Orchard Lake St. Mary’s to prepare his team for the tournament.
“We lost those games and, at one point, it was tough,” West said. “We bounced back. We won four in a row before the tournament. All of those close games helped us on Friday.”
Top games last week
Belding 59, Alma 58 (OT): Kole Hart’s 16-footer with 12 seconds left in overtime gave Belding (8-13) the upset in a Class B district final. Garrett Strothheide had a career-high 31 points, including six 3-pointers, for Belding. Sophomore Dylan Carl had a career-high 25 points for Alma (13-9).
Detroit Douglass 43, Ferndale University 41: Sophomore Kamar Graves made two free throws with 3.5 seconds left to give Douglass (14-9) its fifth consecutive Class B district title. With the score tied at 41-41 Douglass held the ball until Darrell Davis (15 points, 10 rebounds) drove to the basket and passed to Graves, who was fouled. Douglass played without two players, including one starter, who were suspended for violating team rules.
Lakeview 56, Ithaca 55: Nate Shurlow drove the length of the court and made a layup with 2.5 seconds left to give Lakeview (20-3) the victory in a Class C district final. John Torres led Lakeview with 12 points and Shurlow added 10. Josh Hafner scored 21 points, including a 3-pointer that gave Ithaca a 55-54 lead.
Salem 50, Canton 49: Allante Wheeler’s free throw with 4.9 seconds left gave Salem the victory in a Class A district final. Wheeler scored 13 points and Brady Cole added 10 for Salem (17-5). Greg Williams led Canton with 21 points including 11 in the third quarter, when he hit three 3-pointers.
Utica Eisenhower 49, Utica 44: Eisenhower’s district title seemed certain after Charlie Hayes (10 points) made a 3-pointer with 1:21 left in the third quarter. Eisenhower (17-6) led 37-21 at that point but Utica (4-18), which had upset Utica Ford on its home floor on Wednesday, pulled to within 46-44 on two free throws by Blake Vallie with 1:16 remaining. Hayes’ three free throws in the final 20 seconds sealed the victory.
Monday's top regional semifinals
Detroit Consortium (19-2) vs. Detroit Allen Academy (20-2) at Clinton, 5 p.m.: The winner of this game, matching two charter schools, likely will advance past Wednesday’s regional final to the Class C quarterfinals. Allen’s strength is its guard play led by Pakiya Ellis and Jason Williams Jr. Consortium has a fine point guard in Ronald Booth and then there’s Josh Jackson, the X-factor in any game.
Detroit Southeastern (16-7) vs. U-D Jesuit (19-2) at Detroit Cass Tech, 5 p.m.: The Detroit Public School League runner-up will face the Detroit Catholic League champion with the winner to likely face Cass Tech in Wednesday’s Class A regional final. Southeastern has the edge inside with Daryl Bigham and Leonard Harper-Baker, but U-D has the state’s top point guard in Cassius Winston.
Harper Woods Chandler Park Academy (17-5) vs. Detroit Country Day (16-7) at Pontiac Notre Dame Prep, 5:30 p.m.: Country Day could be looking ahead to a Class B regional final against Detroit Douglass. That would be a mistake. Chandler Park is athletic enough to play a full-court game with the defending champions.
Holland Christian (18-5) at Wyoming Godwin Heights (23-0), 8 p.m.: Godwin Heights reached the Class B Final Four last season and took a big step toward a return trip by defeating Grand Rapids South Christian on Wednesday, 54-52.
Oak Park (13-6) vs. Bloomfield Hills (20-3) at Southfield-Lathrup, 6:35 p.m.: It would be easy for Bloomfield Hills, in this Class A matchup, to look past Oak Park to a possible third game against Clarkston (19-4) on Wednesday. Oak Park is a vastly different team after four transfers, including 6-foot-8 sophomore Kelvon Fuller, became eligible in the second semester. If Fuller can contain 6-8 Yante Maten, Oak Park has a shot.
Jalen Martin, Harper Woods Chandler Park: The sophomore had 18 points and 12 rebounds to lead his team to a 67-51 victory over St. Clair Shores South Lake in a Class B district final on Friday. At 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, Martin is one of the top receivers in the class of 2016.
By the numbers
3: Teams from the PSL that won district titles
4: Final Four selections (Saginaw Arthur Hill, G.R. South Christian, Saginaw Valley Lutheran, Bellaire) eliminated in the districts
14: Consecutive seasons Wyoming Tri-unity Christian won a district title before losing this year
“We’ve always had the toughest district. We lost to Southeastern (2011) when they won the city championship. The next year, we lost to Detroit King when they won the city. And last year, we lost to Pershing when they won it.”
David Dixon, Cass Tech coach, on finally winning a district title