Class B: New Haven tops Ludington to win title

David Goricki
The Detroit News
Eric Williams Jr. of New Haven high-fives a fan after the Rockets' defeated Ludington 45-36 to the school's first-ever Class B state championship on Saturday March 25, 2017 at the Breslin Center  in East Lansing, Michigan.

East Lansing — New Haven became the second Macomb County team in history to win a state boys basketball championship Saturday, defeating Ludington 45-36 in the Class B title game at Breslin Center.

New Haven did it with defense, using a 12-0 run during the first 6 1/2 minutes of the fourth quarter to open a 43-30 cushion and start a championship celebration, becoming the first team from Macomb County to win the title since St. Clair Shores Lake Shore won the Class B championship in 1994.

Just how good was New Haven’s fourth quarter defense?

New Haven (27-1) pushed up the intensity and Ludington (25-3) couldn’t score from inside, missing more than a half dozen shots due to the presence of 6-foot-6 Romeo Weems, 6-7 junior Ashton Sherrell and 6-5 senior Eric Williams.

BOX SCORE: New Haven 45, Ludington 36

Ludington failed to connect from the perimeter as well, missing four 3-pointers before Calvin Hackert finally made one to cut the deficit to 43-33 with 1:30 left.

“We take pride in being in great shape because we know that when the fourth quarter comes that we’re just now getting going,” New Haven coach Tedaro France said. “We can defend because we run miles before practice and then we come and defend the whole day. When teams get tired that’s when we want to kick in that extra gear, we say ‘Let’s go full court, man-to-man, let’s trap, let’s press, let’s beat them up some because they’re tired,’ and that won us the game, our defensive pressure late in the game.”

There was no miracle comeback this time around for Ludington which came back from a nine-point deficit with 1:48 left in the semifinal to force overtime against River Rouge Friday night, then battled back from a five-point deficit in overtime to earn a 51-50 win.

“They’re long and they’re playing above the rim,” said Ludington coach Thad Shank. “We’re probably the one school at the Breslin Center that doesn’t have a guy who ever dunked a basketball in a high school basketball game so it’s obviously going to have an effect and that’s why they’re state champions. You have to give them credit. They guard and they made it tough for us to score today.

“I thought we got great shots (in fourth quarter). We got the ball to the rim. We got open looks at the 3-point line. We got great shots. I attribute it to a state championship team over there who 1-through-5, those five guys on the floor make it extremely difficult and they alter things out there on the floor. When you have a guy who’s playing with his elbow above the rim flying at you, it’s going to alter your shots a little bit. And, some nights in basketball you don’t make shots even if you’re good shooters and I think it was a combination of both probably.”

Weems, one of the premier sophomores in the country who has offers from Michigan State and Ohio State, had 19 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks with Williams contributing 14 points and Sherrell, 11 rebounds to help New Haven to a 32-28 rebounding advantage.

“We went man-to-man press trapping (in the fourth quarter) and they called a timeout because they didn’t know what to do,” Weems said. “I started to give everything that I had left, I got scrappy and started rebounding more, just played more aggressive.”

Ludington made things tough on New Haven defensively, trapping and forcing seven first-quarter turnovers while switching up with its 1-2-2 and 2-1-2 zones to take an 11-7 lead, increasing the lead to 15-7 early in the second.

Then New Haven battled back, blocking three shots, two by Weems, and turning them into transition baskets.

It was Weems who rejected a shot at one end, then slammed home a putback at the other to spark a second quarter in which New Haven used a 16-8 run to take a 23-19 halftime lead, culminated by three free throws by Williams with 0.2 seconds left after he was fouled on a 3-pointer.

“We start our runs from defensive stops, where there’s blocked shots or steals and from our pressure and those are two great plays that kind of shifted the momentum toward us,” France said. “They (Ludington) pretty much had it the whole game because they controlled the tempo, their zone the whole game. We had to find a spark somewhere and we got it on the defensive side of the ball.”

Hackert scored 16, Sam LaDuke 10 and Noah Laman had 10 rebounds for Ludington, which shot 22.4 percent from the field and made just 4-of-18 3-pointers.