Ypsilanti — Emoni Bates and defending Division 1 champion Ypsilanti Lincoln opened up the high school basketball season before nearly 4,000 fans at Eastern Michigan University’s Convocation Center on Monday.
But it wasn’t the opener that Bates and Lincoln — ranked No. 1 in the preseason by The Detroit News — were looking for with No. 3 River Rouge coming away with a 63-53 victory.
Bates, a 6-foot-9 guard, led Lincoln to not only its first regional championship, but its first state title as a freshman phenom when he averaged 28.5 points and 10.2 rebounds last year.
With the lower bowl jam-packed and multiple college coaches on hand, including Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, Michigan’s Juwan Howard and EMU’s Rob Murphy, it was River Rouge’s 6-8, 225-pound Legend Geeter who stole the show from Bates, who was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated last month and is considered the top high school player in the country regardless of class.
Geeter put together a double-double (19 points, 11 rebounds), including 10 points during the fourth quarter after struggling early.
“I just had a slow start, then was kind of frustrated and my coaches and teammates cheered me on and I came out here and did what I was supposed to do,” Geeter said. “They weren’t guarding me (in the second half), so I was trying to get as many backdoors and putbacks as I could and try to win this game.”
Added River Rouge coach Lamonta Stone: “I thought he played probably one of the worst first halves that he’s played since I’ve been a coach, but to his credit he came out in the second half and responded. I chewed him out a little bit at halftime, challenged him at one point late in the first half when he only had one rebound, and that was an offensive rebound, and he responded and that’s what I love about the kid.”
River Rouge junior guard Keyshawn Delvin was also impressive, making 3-pointers and attacking the basket, finishing with 15 points.
Bates struggled throughout (24 points on 6-of-21 shooting, 0-of-6 3-pointers), with Lincoln having a new cast of players with a new backcourt in 6-2 freshman Braelon Green, Simon Wheeler and Keon Henderson replacing a senior group from a year ago.
Stone knows how to defend Bates and Lincoln, having guided River Rouge to a 31-point win while limiting Bates to eight points last December.
“Our strategy was the same as last year," Stone said. "We want to force him left because if we force him left he’s a jump shooter. If he’s going right he’s going strong downhill and he’s putting pressure on the defense. We live and die with him making or missing the jump shot because I don’t think he’s going to make enough jump shots to beat us.”
Lincoln's chemistry was lacking at times, but it certainly didn’t help matters that Lincoln left more than a dozen points at the line in the first half, making just 6-of-17 free throws while missing the chance for more points by missing the front end of two 1-on-1 opportunities.
River Rouge led 36-30 at halftime, and increased the lead to 48-39 after three.
Lincoln's free throw woes continued in the second half and the Railsplitters finished 17-of-37 at the line with Bates converting on 12-of-21.
Green scored 13 for Lincoln.
More Ypsi Tip-off Classic
Detroit Douglass 65, Wayne 48: Pierre Brooks Jr. put on a show, scoring 25 for Douglass. Brooks, a 6-5 junior who has an offer from Michigan State, scored 20 in the first half to help Douglass take a 41-22 lead.
Dante Foreman, a 6-6 junior, had 11 points and six blocks for Wayne.
More boys basketball
Canton Prep 65, Huron Valley Lutheran 52: Bo Oyeneyin scored 15, Luke Wisniewski 13 and AJ Harris 12 for Canton Prep.
Chesterfield Austin Catholic 39, Kimball New Life Christian 37: William Weingartz had 15 points and Gabe Nahhaf scored 13 for Austin Catholic. New Life Christian is 0-2.
Novi Christian 71, Hazel Park 54: Jonathon Blackwell scored 29 and had 10 rebounds, Blake Goodman scored 20 with nine rebounds and Ethan Cooper scored 11 for Novi Christian. London Gillery scored 27 for Hazel Park.
Plymouth 60, Allen Park 39: Matt MacLellan scored 16 and Ethan Bentley 11 for Plymouth. Pierce Eaton scored 15 for Allen Park.
Ypsilanti Arbor Prep 48, Detroit U-D Jesuit 47: Maurice Anderson had 22 points for Arbor Prep. Charles Turner scored 19 for U-D Jesuit.
More boys basketball scores
Birmingham Groves 66, Taylor Prep 45
Canton Prep 51, Taylor Prep 31
Clinton Township Clintondale 68, SH Parkway 60
Detroit East English 61, Grosse Pointe North 48
Flat Rock 65, Onsted 43
Livonia Churchill 45, Garden City 28
Madison Heights Bishop Foley 68, Algonac 42
Novi Christian 71, Hazel Park 54
Plymouth 60, Allen Park 39
Rochester Hills Stoney Creek 59, Utica Ford 49
Southfield A&T 82, Waterford Kettering 60
Warren Cousino 36, Warren Mott 26
Ypsilanti Arbor 48, U-D Jesuit 47
Redford Westfield Prep 59, Detroit CMA 43: Shamya Reid scored 29 with nine rebounds and Asia Cochran scored 24 with 16 rebounds for Westfield Prep (2-0). Janae Williams scored 16 for Detroit CMA (0-2).