East Lansing — Cassius Winston tossed aside past semifinal failures to lead top-ranked Detroit Jesuit to an impressive 72-51 victory over previously unbeaten Macomb Dakota on Friday afternoon at the Breslin Center in front of nearly 12,000 fans, including Tom Izzo, his future coach at Michigan State.
Jesuit — which lost semifinal games the previous two years — will be going after its first Class A state championship Saturday at noon.
Jesuit (27-0) went on a pivotal 12-0 run in the final minutes of the first quarter, opening a commanding 25-9 lead. The Cubs were never threatened the rest of the way.
It was during this stretch when Jesuit’s 6-foot-9 juniors Greg Eboigbodin and Ike Eke made their presence felt, making it tough for Dakota 6-8 sophomore Thomas Kithier to finish around the basket while junior point guard Jermaine Jackson was failing to connect from the perimeter.
The run started on Winston’s touch pass to Eboigbodin for a dunk, followed by an Eke putback for a 17-9 lead.
Then Eke was at his best to open up the second quarter, blocking Tre’von Webster’s shot at one end and scoring off a tip-in at the other. The run concluded with a 3-pointer from Scott Nelson, followed by a jumper in the paint by Winston.
“I was very pleased with the effort today,” Jesuit coach Pat Donnelly said. “As you well know this is our third trip in three years and the first two times we came here it did not work out very well on Friday for us so we were very focused this year coming in to make sure we had an opportunity to move on to Saturday to play for a state championship.
“I thought our guys did a tremendous job, especially at the defensive end. I thought we did a good job defensively on contesting their shots and I thought we did an even better job of eliminating offensive rebounding opportunities for them. Greg and Ike did a phenomenal job on the glass.”
Winston, a 6-1 point guard who was named Mr. Basketball on Monday, got his first assist four seconds into the game on a breakaway layup by Elijah Collins.
Winston finished with 27 points (8-of-16 shooting) and 12 assists. Eboigbodin had 13 points (6-of-6 shooting) and 18 rebounds with Eke contributing nine points and eight rebounds to help Jesuit to a 39-24 advantage on the glass. The Cubs shot 58.3 percent from the field while limiting Dakota to 35.1 percent.
“It means the world, finally getting over that hump and now we have to finish it off,” Winston said. “Like I’ve said before, I don’t think I’ve had a successful high school career unless I win a state championship so right now we’re one win away from completing that goal.
“This year we have a talented team, a talented group of kids that can get it done inside, can get it done from outside, we have kids who can knock down shots, so this year it’s not just me doing everything.”
Jesuit led 30-15 at halftime, then pushed its lead to 43-24 midway through the third.
“Obviously their length makes a difference, but we missed shots we normally make, especially in the first quarter when they got up on us and we missed some easy shots and easy looks,” Dakota coach Paul Tocco said. “They are a great team and they have a lot of pieces and obviously at the point they have a very good player and he makes them go.”
Steven Marshall and Tavon Allison each scored 13 for Dakota (26-1) with Kithier and Jackson (4-of-21 shooting) scoring 12 apiece.