Westland John Glenn soars past rival Wayne
Wayne — Brendan Balko and Chad Stevens stepped up and played big roles for Westland John Glenn Tuesday night in its intense rivalry game with Wayne Memorial.
With standout senior guards Joe Moon and Renel Thrasher being harassed defensively and combining for just 38 points — 15 under their combined average — on 8-of-32 shooting, Balko and Stevens took over in helping John Glenn (9-4, 7-2) to a 67-63 victory to complete the season sweep while earning a share of first place in the KLAA East Division.
It was Stevens who set the tempo, knocking down a pair of 3-pointers in the first quarter.
He finished with 10 points, making a free throw to open a 65-61 lead with 17.1 seconds left.
“I had some great assists on the early 3s I made and couldn’t have done it without Joe and Renel,” Stevens said. “This is the biggest game of the year for both teams guaranteed. In the last game we had two players ejected, lots of techs. We played them last year in districts and they beat us and this year we beat them twice so we just wanted revenge and we got it.”
And, Balko, a 6-foot-6 junior center, contributed eight points and 10 rebounds before fouling out with 2:13 remaining and John Glenn holding a seven-point lead.
It was Balko who scored off a putback in the final seconds of the first half to cap a 5-0 run for a 34-26 halftime advantage.
Then, with Wayne (10-3, 7-2 KLAA East) battling back with its fullcourt pressure and trap to force multiple turnovers, Balko made an inside shot off a putback for a 56-49 lead with 5:20 left, then hit a 12-footer for a 60-49 cushion.
“I’m just grateful for having Coach (Rod) Watts for giving me the opportunity,” Balko said. “I knew my job going in was to rebound and I just tried to perfect it.”
Moon, who averages 28 and has offers from Central Connecticut and Indianapolis, scored 21, making 11-of-14 free throws, seven free throws during the fourth quarter.
Thrasher, who averages 25, scored 17, making two free throws with 4.6 seconds left for the final margin of victory, making the free throws after converting just 4-of-10 prior to stepping to the 15-foot stripe.
Wayne senior guard Isaiah Lewis scored 27, 10 coming during the fourth quarter when he made both of his 3-pointers. Cortier Muse-Sober had 13 points and 11 rebounds.