East Lansing — Detroit Edison coach Bo Neely called Malik Ellison of Flint Beecher the “Little Assassin” heading into the Class C state semifinal Thursday afternoon at Breslin Center.
Ellison made sure Edison’s Cinderella run came to an end, scoring 20 of his game-high 28 during the second half of a 76-68 victory in front of Michigan State coach Tom Izzo to give Beecher a shot at a third straight state championship.
Beecher (22-5) will face Grand Rapids Covenant Christian (21-5) in the title game at 4:30 Saturday, trying to top the two state championships that Monte Morris (Iowa State) and Beecher won in 2012 and ’13.
Edison finished 14-12.
White Ellison handled the bulk of Beecher’s offense, on 6-for-14 shooting and 15-for-21 onfree throws, it was 6-foot-7 senior Levane Blake who made an impact on the defensive end.
Blake rejected four shots in the first quarter to keep Beecher close, then continued to be a factor the rest of the way in blocking or altering shots, finishing with 10 points and six blocks.
Freshman Jalen Terry made big shot after big shot, finishing with 15 points, on 6-from-9 from the field, 2-for-4 on 3-pointers.
“We knew Malik’s a tough little guard” Neely said of Ellison, who has an offer from Eastern Michigan. “I think the advantage that he had was that he just understood how the game would go, you know we’re here for the first time and he understood how to work the situation.
”The thing about that Beecher team is that those guys are never going to get rattled. They’ve been in so many wars that they come to battle and there just loose where it’s just another game for them.”
Jamal Keesee, a 6-3 senior, had 21 points and 12 rebounds for Edison; 6-8 junior Deante Johnson had 17 points, nine rebounds and four blocks; junior Gary Solomon had 15 points; and junior point guard Pierre Mitchell 10 points and six rebounds.
It was Solomon (Detroit Cass Tech), Mitchell (Detroit Loyola) and Amari Hudson (Detroit King) who helped Edison to a 12-6 record since becoming eligible to play in late January.
Edison led, 15-14, after one and was within 29-27 at halftime. Ellison scored 10 during a 20-15 third-quarter runto open up a 49-42 cushion, then opened a 12-point lead late in the game.
“I had to come in and focus on the game plan and continue to play my style of basketball and help this team any type of way I could,” Ellison said.
Beecher coach Mike Williams liked his team’s pressure defense and ability to force turnovers in the halfcourt trap.
“We forced 18 turnovers, eight of which were steals,” he said. “They beat up us on the boards a little bit (41-29 margin), but I thought controlling the pace of the game was important.”
On Blake’s blocked shots. Williams said: “It’s been a frustrating 31/2years for him because depending on where we play at he’s able to play his game, he’s able to be physical, he’s able to block shots, and then sometimes when he touches somebody he’s in foul trouble and I think he struggled with that his first 21/2 years.
“Now, he’s gotten smarter. I put him back in the game today with four fouls with five minutes to go. I trusted him.”
Beecher extended the lead to 59-50 while Blake was out and Edison could pull no closer than four, 59-55, with Beecher using a 9-1 run to take its largest lead.
Grand Rapids Covenant Christian 62, Manton 35: Covenant Christian used a 23-3 second-quarter to take control in its semifinal game with Manton.
Covenant Christian made three 3-pointers during the pivotal quarter, including two from Trevor Miedema.
Manton finished 21-5