Detroit — Things weren't looking good for Josh McFolley and Gerald Blackshear in their debut with Detroit Western Friday afternoon at Detroit East English Village in a PSL West showdown.
Western entered the game as the state's top-ranked team, having won nine straight with a 4-0 record in the PSL.
McFolley, a 6-foot guard, and Blackshear, a 6-8 post player, are both transfers from Mt. Clemens and Detroit Mercy commits, making their first appearance since becoming eligible to play.
Instead of McFolley, it was junior guard Karmari Newman who was putting on a show for East English, scoring 12 first-half points to give his team a 38-30 halftime lead, then opening up the second half by making a 3-pointer, followed by a lay-up in transition to open up a 13-point cushion.
It looked at the time like East English was on its way to pulling off the upset to push its PSL record to 6-0, but McFolley tossed the rust aside and got going to spark Western to the 78-71 comeback victory.
McFolley made three 3-pointers during a 3-minute stretch in the third to spark a 13-2 run to pull Western within 45-43 midway through the quarter.
Then Blackshear got into the act, rejecting Newman's inside shot at one end, then scoring off a putback as time expired in the third to give Western a 52-51 lead.
McFolley wasn't done, making three free throws after being fouled on a 3-pointer to give Western a 60-58 lead with 5:58 left. Western led the rest of the way.
McFolley finished with 21 points while Blackshear, going up against physical 6-5, 230-pound junior Cedrick Lattimore, had 14 points and 14 rebounds. Aaron Austin had 14 points and Brailen Neely 10.
Newman, who came in averaging 25 points, was limited to 19 for East English (9-3) and held without a field goal during the fourth quarter while being guarded by Austin, missing his final five 3-point attempts.
"It finally came true, my teammates stuck with me and Brailen helped me get in the flow of the game because I was struggling in the first half so I thank my teammates," McFolley said. "My three 3s I had (during third quarter) just came from my team. They kept talking to me, telling me to keep shooting because I'm a shooter and so they finally started falling."
McFolley praised junior guard Brailen Neely for keeping his confidence up during his struggles. Neely, who averaged nearly 20 points during Western's impressive 9-0 start to the season, made a 3-pointer from the left corner to open the fourth, then made four straight free throws to open a 68-63 lead with just under three minutes left.
East English still was within 74-71 in the final minute, but couldn't get a steal with its full-court pressure.
"He (McFolley) calmed down and Blackshear solidified the basket so they did what we expected them to do," Western coach Derrick McDowell said. "We knew Josh coming out would be kind of wild. He's (Blackshear) a monster down there. Once you get it down there's nobody that can stop him, at least at this level.
"I thought Aaron (Austin) was the player of the game, not only on him (defending Newman), but Aaron did stuff on the other end, on offense, that allowed us to win the game."
Austin scored six of his points during the fourth quarter, including two free throws for a 74-69 lead with 43 seconds left.