Detroit — Derrick McDowell had multiple face-to-face chats with Detroit Western 6-foot-8 senior Tray Jackson this season, talking on the importance of rebounding if he had any thoughts of continuing his career at the next level.
Well, McDowell — who guided Western to the Class A state championship in 2015 — obviously got through to Jackson, who had 27 points and 10 rebounds to lead Western to a 50-48 upset win over Michigan-bound guard David DeJulius and Detroit East English Monday to tip off the boys basketball state tournament in a district opener.
Jackson was the best player on the floor. DeJulius didn’t live up to the role of Mr. Basketball finalist, struggling in his final game.
DeJulius never looked comfortable and struggled throughout, finishing with 12 points on 4-of-17 shooting, making just 1-of-8 3-pointers. He scored four in the fourth, but was just 2-of-6, missing a 3-pointer and three shots on drives to the basket.
After Western (10-9) missed the front end of a 1-1 with 10.3 seconds left, East English (16-4) still had the chance to win or force overtime. DeJulius had the ball at the top of the key with four seconds remaining, drove the lane and his runner bounced harmlessly off the front of the rim as time expired.
“Tray struggled early in the game on some turnovers, but I knew if we were going to win the game, he was going to win it for us,” said McDowell of Jackson. “I’m not saying it’s been like that all year, but we’ve been right there and the last couple of weeks he’s made big strides in stepping up and taking on the load, and he’s been delivering and I’m real happy for him because we’ve been riding him.
“We’ve been really on him the last two or three weeks on rebounding and I told him if he wants to have a career in basketball he’s got to rebound. He can make himself so much better because of the skills he has, you’re just adding on to what you have, but if you’re not going to rebound you have no career because of your size.”
Jackson made 10-of-18 shots from the field and scored off multiple putbacks. He was at his best in the final minutes, making a 3-pointer to pull Western even at 46 with 3:15 left, then scoring off a putback to give his team a 48-46 cushion with 2:27 left.
Then, after Z’Avon Godwin dunked over Jackson to pull East English even at 48 with 1:45 left, Western’s Kip Clark scored off a putback for a 50-48 Western lead with 45 seconds left.
DeJulius and Jalen Nix missed 3-pointers just before Clark’s putback, and then Keyon Brown missed another long-range shot off a pass from DeJulius with 25 seconds left and Tariq Shepard on a drive seconds later.
“Dave struggled and he had some tough shots, but I thought Aaron (Stanton) all along played him straight up, which allowed us to guard everybody else and then be in position to rebound,” praised McDowell on Aaron Stanton who defended DeJulius. “The emphasis against them is to pound the glass because they want to get out and run. We sent in three to pound the glass. They like to play in the 70s and 80s and we know Dave can outscore us as a team because we only score in the 40s and 50s.”
The game was close throughout with East English leading 12-9 after one and 27-25 at halftime with Western grabbing 10 offensive rebounds to stay close. East English carried a 38-37 lead into the fourth quarter.
“We just played as a team, played great defense got rebounds and stayed composed,” said Jackson who has multiple Division 1 offers, including Chicago-Loyola, Toledo and Eastern Michigan, but plans to attend prep school at Sunrise Christian Academy in Kansas. “We always focus in on Dave (DeJulius) when we play them because he’s such a great player. Aaron is our best defensive player, hard-nosed, tough and plays with a lot of energy. He did a great job on Dave and when we got the chance we double-teamed him and came out successful.”
Clark also had a double-double for Western (10 points, 10 rebounds) while Tre Richards scored eight.
Shepard scored a team-high 19 for East English, but made just 8-of-19 shots and was limited to two points in the final quarter.
Western advances to a 5:30 p.m. district semifinal matchup against Hamtramck (8-12) or following the 4 p.m. semifinal between Cass Tech (16-4) and King (12-6) which defeated Grosse Pointe South, 70-40 in the first opening-round game. The title game is Friday at 5.
Antonio Marshall scored 16 for King and Marcus Gibbs had 12 points.
Birmingham Seaholm 58, Troy Athens 48: Cooper Mixon scored 24 and Brady Flynn 14 for Seaholm (8-13). Jacob Brantley had 14 for Athens (15-6).
Dearborn Edsel Ford 59, Taylor Kennedy 50: Jalal Baydoun had 22 points and six assists, Hakeem Fitahey scored nine and Shawn Willimas had eight points and eight rebounds for Ford (13-8). Sazion Gray scored 15 for Kennedy (12-9).
Macomb Dakota 72, Port Huron 55: Mark Tocco had 21 points, Ryan Rollins had 16 points and 12 rebounds and Joshua Hines score 13 for Dakota (14-7). De’Ovion Price had 14 for Port Huron (6-14).
Melvindale 63, Lincoln Park 56: Deangelo Page had 16 points, Toriano Bibbs 15 and Marcus Riley eight and 12 rebounds for Melvindale (9-11). David Espitia had 22 and Khalie Fleming 16 for Lincoln Park.
Milford 44, Walled Lake Northern 33: Aiden Warzecha had 15 points and Gunnar Gustafson 13 for Milford (17-4). Andre Price scored 14 for Northern (12-9).
Okemos 71, Lansing Everett 60: Jordan Henry had 22 points, Noah Pruitt had 12 points and four assists, and Mason Kaczmarek had 12 points for Okemos (17-4). Shamar Howard scored 16 for Everett (6-15).
Redford Union 41, Detroit Cody 28: Christian Montgomery had 12 points for Union (16-4). Detroit Cody is 4-10.
Warren De La Salle 69, Fraser 32: Jordan Winowiecki had 18 points, Luke Pfromm 11 and Kole Gjonaj 10 for De La Salle (14-7). Matt Lockhart scored 15 for Fraser (7-14).
Wayne Memorial 75, Garden City 14: Rashad Williams had 18 points, Isaiah Lewis 16 and Chayce Leslie 12 for Memorial (14-7). Garden City is 2-19.
Woodhaven 60, Riverview 41: Joshua Warren had 21 points, six assists and seven rebounds, and Daivon Ready had 11 points and 10 rebounds for Woodhaven (17-5). Hunter Grimes scored 19 for Riverview (10-11).
Dearborn Heights Robichaud 64, Dearborn Heights Annapolis 46: Jasir Poole scored 23 and Daryl Lockhart 14 for Robichaud (7-14).
Detroit Douglass 44, Detroit University Prep 37: Markise Brown scored 14, Edward Banks II had 13 points and 10 rebounds and Pierre Brooks II had 10 points and 11 rebounds for Douglass (8-11). Malcolm Cain had 15 for University Prep.
Detroit Henry Ford 66, Detroit Cornerstone 60: Anthony Roberts had 30 points, Deante Ulmer 21 and Antonio Green 10 for Ford (16-5). Damon Gilmore scored 22 for Cornerstone (10-9).
Detroit Henry Ford Academy 70, Detroit University Prep Science & Math 48: Trevion Williams scored 25 and Josh Wilson 14 for Henry Ford (12-6). Michael Bryant had 13 for University Prep.
Detroit Osborn 66, Detroit Denby 65: Osborn won on a 3-pointer at the buzzer. Denby finished the season with a 13-7 record.
Ecorse 77, Dearborn Advanced 32: Gregory Williams had 12 points and six steals, Darius Leapheart had 10 points and five asssists, and Kaleb Maddox had 11 points and 10 rebounds for Ecorse (13-8). Jamari Jackson scored eight for Advanced (12-9).
New Haven 68, Pontiac 45: Romeo Weems had 26 points and 10 rebounds, Ashton Sherrell had 16 points and 10 rebounds and Ronald Jefferey had 13 points, seven assists and seven steals for New Haven (21-0). D’Quarion Cole scored 15 for Pontiac.
St. Clair Shores South Lake 60, Harper Woods Chandler Park 58: Amier Gilmore had 23 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks, and Robert Davis had 17 points and four assists for South Lake (19-2). Marlon Crawford scored 16 and Andre Bradford 12 for Chandler Park.
Detroit Loyla 87, Dearborn Heights Star International 28: Myron Gardner had 42 points, 10 rebounds and eight steals and Eric Cox scored 12 for Loyola (10-11).
Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett 48, Mount Clemens 31: Casey Scoggin scored 19 and Anthony George 18 for Liggett (4-17). Tyreke Banach had 13 for Mount Clemens.
Riverview Gabriel Richard 72, Taylor Prep 62: Matt Silka scored 15 and Eric Wigginton and Tahj McGee had 14 each for Gabriel Richard (15-6). Jon Sabuda had 22 for Taylor Prep (10-11).
Allen Park Inter-City Baptist 65, Taylor Trillium 47: Ethan Lividini had 17 points, Cameron Hunter 15 and Ben Estell 14 for Inter-City (12-9). Nassan Applewhite scored 21 for Trillium (5-10).
News staff contributed