Bo Neely enjoyed his time working as an AAU coach with The Family, helping in the development of his son, Brailen Neely, along with Cassius Winston, who was Mr. Basketball last year while leading U-D Jesuit to the Class A state championship.
Now Neely is guiding Detroit Edison (14-11) to its first quarterfinal appearance, against Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (24-0) in a Class C showdown at 6 Tuesday night at Tecumseh.
“We’re extremely excited to get where we are now, and we think we can do something special too,” Neely said. “You can see the excitement in the guys.
“St. Mary has some talented kids, but we just think we can speed them up and see if they can play fast. They sit in a 2-3 zone, so our plan is definitely come out and attack them, try to speed them up a little bit so they can’t sit in that zone.
“We want to pull them out of it and make them guard us man to man because we feel we have better athletes.”
Catholic Central is led by 6-foot-7 senior guard Nick Welch, who averages 20.3 points and 9.3 rebounds.
Neely, in his fourth year as Edison head coach, learned a lot while playing in the mid-1980s for longtime Detroit East Catholic coach David Soules, helping East Catholic to a Class D state championship his senior year.
Now, Neely said he feels his Edison team has the ability to reach Breslin Center because of a strong backcourt, along with athletic players who have size.
Neely also is thankful to have Pierre Mitchell, who has big-game experience, running Edison’s offense. Mitchell played for Detroit Loyola in the Class C semifinal last year, losing on a last-second shot by Malik Ellison of eventual champion Flint Beecher. He hopes to see a semifinal rematch between Mitchell and Ellison on Thursday.
Gary Solomon, a 6-5 guard, transferred from Detroit Cass Tech, and 6-1 Amari Hudson transferred from Detroit King, both eligible in January.
“We have something very special and unique in our starting five that includes point guard Pierre Mitchell, who just controls everything,” Neely said. “He’s our veteran leader who gives us confidence going through all these games because he’s been here before, and when things aren’t going well in the huddle he just sort of takes over and encourages them.
“Gary Solomon is our two guard. He’s an extremely thick guy that can score the ball any type of way, hits the 3, gets to the lane, gets to the basket and draws fouls to get to the line and he’s a good mid-range shooter.
“Amari Hudson and Jamal Keesee are our seniors, and those guys keep guys accountable on the defensive end and always take the tough assignment every night. And we have the big fella, 6-8 Deante Johnson, who really protects the basket and makes it tough for guys to get to the rim, just gives us a big-man presence.”
Neely said he believes Edison will be aided by playing in the PSL, having beaten Detroit East English and Mr. Basketball finalist Greg Elliott, PSL runner-up Detroit King, and defending Class B state champion Detroit Henry Ford twice, while losing to such powers as PSL champion Detroit Cass Tech and Wyoming Godwin Heights.
“We played a good schedule, “Neely said. “Playing that type of schedule prepares you for a run like this.”
And so they meet again
Romulus (20-4) will face defending state champion U-D Jesuit (20-3) at 5 Tuesday at Calihan Hall in a Class A quarterfinal. The teams met back in early January, with U-D Jesuit coming away with a 71-58 win.
“We had the lead on them when we played them earlier in the year, and let it get away from us in the third quarter,” Romulus coach Jarret Smith said. “We have to stay consistent, play team ball, just pay attention to detail and we’ll be fine.”
Romulus’ strength is its ability to score in transition, but it also has had big games from the perimeter, making 17 3-pointers in a win last month against Ann Arbor Skyline and shooting 10-for-17 on 3’s in a district final win over Wayne Memorial.
U-D Jesuit has tremendous size in 6-9 Greg Eboigbodin (Illinois-Chicago) and Ike Eke (Marquette), along with 3-point shooters in Zach Winston and Scotty Nelson.
“Greg’s been real steady for us, solid in the post,” U-D Jesuit coach Pat Donnelly said of Eboigbodin. “Greg’s always been aggressive. He’s had two games in a row where he’s averaged about 17 points and 16 rebounds.
“And, Ike, this is really his first opportunity to play for any extended minutes (in regional title win over Detroit Cass Tech Wednesday) since he’s been back, so he’s going to get better and better as we move on.”
Eke (Marquette) returned to Nigeria for the funeral of his mother, who was killed by a speeding motorist last month, but is back and trying to help U-D Jesuit repeat as champion.
Troy (21-4) will face West Bloomfield (16-8) in the 7 p.m. Tuesday quarterfinal at Calihan.
Xavier Tillman and unbeaten Grand Rapids Christian (25-0) will take on Isaiah Livers and Kalamazoo Central (21-3) in a Class A quarterfinal at 7 Tuesday at Lansing Eastern.
Tillman, a 6-8, 240-pound power forward, and the 6-8 Livers are Mr. Basketball finalists, with the award being handed out this afternoon in Detroit.
The two will be playing in the Big Ten next year, with Tillman going to Michigan State and Livers headed to Michigan.
Fife’s long wait
Clarkston (24-1) will be trying this week to hand Dan Fife the first stateof his impressive 35-year coaching career.
But first Clarkston has to get past Saginaw (21-4) and its star player, Saginaw Valley player of the year Henry Speight, a 6-4 forward who averages 22 points, 13 rebounds and five assists.
Clarkston showcases the 1-2 punch of junior point guard Foster Loyer (Michigan State) and 6-4 senior Dylan Alderson (Wisconsin-Milwaukee). Tip is set for 7:30 at Davison.
Back for 51?
Detroit Country Day put an end to Ypsilanti Arbor Prep’s 37-game winning streak Saturday night at Breslin Center, earning a 59-48 win in the Class B girls basketball state title game.
It was the 12th state championship for Country Day coach Frank Orlando, who this season celebrated his 50th year in coaching, the past 36 at Country Day.
It was reported by State Champs this would be Orlando’s final year, but he said that wasn’t the case following the win.
“No,” he said. “I think it was a misconception or something that I was all done, but I just love it so much that something keeps me going. I don’t know what it is, but I know I want to coach next year. I know that for sure.”
Orlando, 74, suffered a stroke last April, but regained his health and was able to lead practices back in December. He is the state’s wins leader at 762.
David Goricki’s state finals MVPs
Lauren Newman, Sr., G, Flushing
Newman scored 19 in the 49-38 win over East Kentwood, including 4-for-8 on 3-pointers en route to the program’s first state championship. She had 14 points and made Miss Basketball runner-up Kierra Fletcher earn every one of her 30 points in the upset semifinal win over defending champ Warren Cousino.
Kaela Webb, Jr., G, Detroit Country Day
Miss Basketball finalist Destiny Pitts had a double-double (17 points, 10 rebounds) in a 59-48 championship win over previously unbeaten Ypsilanti Arbor Prep, but Webb had 13 points and nine assists to help Country Day shoot 64.7 percent from the field.
Shaulana Wagner, Fr., G, Detroit Edison
Wagner scored 12 and had three blocks, including a winning play when she blocked Hannah Spitzley’s 3-point attempt from the right corner to help Edison earn a 46-44 victory over Pewamo-Westphalia. Spitzley had made two 3’s earlier in the quarter to help PW rally back from a nine-point deficit.
Maddie Clark, Sr., F, Pittsford
Clark put on a dominating performance in the state title game for a second consecutive year, this time coming through with a 29-point, 10-rebound performance, which included a half dozen putbacks in a 71-31 rout of Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary to conclude her career on a 55-game winning streak.