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Macomb Dakota holds off New Haven in boys basketball

Geoff Robinson
The Detroit News

Macomb — In a Macomb Area Conference crossover between a couple of boys basketball heavyweights, The Detroit News’ top ranked team, Macomb Dakota, was able to hold off a hard-charging 18th-ranked New Haven squad, 72-66, Friday night.

Senior New Haven guard Eric Williams was able to cut his team’s 13-point, fourth-quarter deficit to 66-64 with just over a minute remaining, but Dakota’s Jermaine Jackson was able to trigger his clutch gene one last time and hit a few free throws that iced the game.

“It’s early in the year and we’ve got some things we need to work on,” Dakota coach Paul Tocco said. “But we battled to the end. They’re a pretty good team, but it was definitely not our best effort. In the end, we still pulled it out and I’m proud of the boys for doing some good things down the stretch.”

Jackson finished with 26 points to power the Dakota attack.

Williams scored 26 for New Haven, while teammate Romeo Weems had 27 and 11 rebounds.

“I just like the heart we showed,” New Haven coach Tedaro France said. “We didn’t quit. We were in a great position to win it and we’ve got to continue to grow from this day.”

After going into the half down 33-28, New Haven was able to reel off the first seven points of the second half to take a 35-33 lead. Jackson answered with a 3-pointer that spurred a 20-5 Dakota run to end the period. His 10 third-quarter points helped Dakota (3-0) build a 53-40 advantage heading into the fourth.

“My teammates kept telling me to shoot the ball,” Jackson said. “They really gave me confidence. I was looking for them early on, but I found some open spots and they found me.”

“It starts and it ends with (Jackson),” Tocco said. “The ball’s going to be in his hands and we’re going to go to him when we need points, and he knows how to generate points for us.”

It was a back and forth affair in the first half. Senior Dakota forward Jack Ballantyne got off to a hot start with six points and seven rebounds in the first quarter, but when he picked up his second foul early in the second, New Haven was able get out in front behind stellar play from Williams and Weems.

That was when Jackson awoke from his slumber.

The highly sought-after recruit finished the first half with a flurry, scoring 10 of his 12 first half points in the second quarter’s final four minutes. He also dished out a nifty assist to junior forward and Michigan State commit Thomas Kithier to push the Dakota lead to 31-24.

Ballantyne finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds for Dakota, while Kithier scored 14.

Weems emotional afterwards

Despite a solid effort against the top team in the state, Weems, a sophomore sensation with a bevy of colleges interested in his services at the next level, couldn’t contain his emotions after a game he so badly wanted to win.

“I feel like I let my team down,” a teary-eyed Weems said. “I got a great team and teammates, and people keep talking about how we ain’t got nobody, we ain’t going to be nothing. But we are somebody, and I wanted to prove that tonight. I really wanted to win so nobody could say anything about us.”

Jackson knows the competitor that Weems can be, as they provide a formidable 1-2 punch on Detroit’s AAU team The Family.

“He’s a great player,” Jackson said. “We knew coming into this game that we had to lead for our teams. He’s a great guy and athlete.”

Because Dakota is Class A and New Haven is Class C, the only way these two teams could meet again this season would be in the MAC Tournament.

Geoff Robinson is a freelance writer.