Detroit — Jaren English and Darius Lundy combined to make one of the biggest plays in recent Romulus basketball history, teaming up on the winning play to dethrone defending Class A state champion U-D Jesuit 66-63 Tuesday night in a quarterfinal at Calihan Hall.
English drove the right baseline and from under the basket found Lundy in the left corner who connected on a 3-pointer with 2.8 seconds left for the difference.
Sure, Romulus (21-4) won the Class A state championship in 2013, but this gives it a return trip to the Breslin Center, playing a state semifinal game Friday afternoon.
“I told Coach to give me the ball and let me make a play,” said English of what he told Romulus coach Jerret Smith during a timeout with 13 seconds left. “He told me to just go to work and I knew D.J. (Lundy) was going to be there and I knew he was going to hit it too. He told me he’d be wide open and knock it down. I just trusted my teammates and I’m so glad I did.
“I (planned) on driving (for a layup), but I knew they were going to try and cut it off and I knew Greg (6-foot-9 Eboigbodin) was going to jump, so I just tried to throw a pass around him. I knew the back side would be open so I just tried to get it to the back side.”
And, it worked with Lundy knocking down his third 3-pointer of the game and Romulus’ first long-range shot in the second half after English and Dylan Price misfired on 3-point attempts during the previous two minutes.
“I’ve never felt anything like this in my life playing basketball, it’s crazy,” said Lundy, who finished with 18 points. “In the huddle Coach (Smith) told him (English) to make a play and I told him I’d be wide open in the corner and go ahead and hit me. I’m so happy I hit it. Thank God he passed me the ball and now we can go to the Breslin.”
And, it was English (14 points, seven rebounds), who showed Romulus wouldn’t be intimidated by U-D Jesuit’s size in 6-9 seniors Greg Eboigbodin (Illinois-Chicago) and Ike Eke (Marquette), attacking the basket from the opening seconds.
Sure, English got rejected by Eke right away, but he kept attacking and scored off of driving layups, as did Price (13 points) and junior guard Kaevon Merriweather (11 points) to open the perimeter where Romulus hit on 4-of-8 3-pointers in the first half.
“Coach (assistant Steven) Glenn just told me to keep driving, keep driving and keep attacking because they have to call something, they didn’t call anything but still we had to keep attacking because good things happen when you attack the rim,” English said.
And, of Romulus’ defensive game plan?
“Ike and Greg are two good players, two Division I players and it’s hard to guard them, but we just stuck to the game plan and tried to make them shoot over us and not foul them,” English said.
U-D Jesuit (20-4), the Catholic League champions, defeated Romulus 71-58 earlier in the season, but Romulus led the majority of the rematch, leading 20-18 after one, 34-30 at halftime and 51-46 after three.
Romulus led by as many as 11 (49-38) on a Price baseline jumper with two minutes left in the third.
But, with Merriweather on the bench, picking up his third and four fouls with three minutes left in the third, U-D Jesuit started its comeback.
Eboigboidin (17 points, 12 rebounds), Eke (seven points) and Elijah Collins (10 points) started to get offensive rebounds, starting with Collins putback basket, followed by his transition basket off a steal to start a 17-4 run for a 55-53 lead with 5:50 left.
The fourth quarter had six lead changes with U-D Jesuit sophomore point guard Julian Dozier scoring five of his 19 points, including a driving layup for a 58-57 lead with 3:22 left. However, that would be his final points as he suffered an ankle injury on the play and hobbled to the bench.
Dozier returned in the final seconds to take a three-quarter court shot which missed the mark.
U-D Jesuit made just one 3-pointer in the quarterfinal, a first-quarter 3 by Dozier. Zach Winston, who made three threes in a regional final win over Detroit Cass Tech last Wednesday, was scoreless, and Scotty Nelson, who made multiple 3-pointers during the regionals, scored six.