Detroit — Javier Whitaker knocked down a 3-pointer in the opening seconds of a Division 1 district semifinal game against Grosse Pointe South Wednesday night at Detroit King and kept shooting to put Hamtramck within a win of its first district championship in 35 years.
Whitaker, a junior guard, opened the game with a 3-pointer from the top of the key 10 seconds into the game to open the scoring. He missed his next four shots — all from deep range — but finished with a season-high 28 points, making 8-of-16 3-pointers in a 78-67 victory.
“We’ve been working all season for this, we’re just coming together and playing with each other,” said Whitaker who had nine 3-pointers in a win over Ecorse earlier in the season, finishing with 27 points. “I was just locked in the whole day, stayed off social media and was ready to go.”
Whitaker wasn’t bothered with his four straight misses, saying: “When I started missing I just looked at my mechanics, and then we started not scoring so I knew we had to get back at it, so I went back and knew what I did when I hit that first 3 and then I started hitting them.”
State basketball games continue to be played in front of fans, with the MHSAA saying it will reevaluate the coronavirus situation as soon as Thursday.
Hamtramck (17-3), which held a fourth-quarter lead against No. 1 River Rouge before falling 58-50 in late January, showed its quickness and depth in the opening quarter when it took a 22-17 lead and had eight players score.
“That’s just teamwork,” Whitaker said. “We’ve been working all summer, so that’s just teamwork.”
Hamtramck extended the lead to 39-31 at halftime with Whitaker scoring 11 points, making three 3-pointers.
Whitaker made three more 3-pointers during the third quarter, all coming during a 14-2 run after South pulled within 43-37 to give Hamtramck its largest lead, 57-39 with 2:30 left in the quarter … and Hamtramck standout freshman guard Amari Allen also made a 3-pointer during the pivotal run.
Allen showed his exceptional ball-handling skills throughout the game, getting a handful of assists on Whitaker alone, and was trying to get one more on a transition break with three minutes left when two of his teammates, including Whitaker, gave him the ball back for a layup and 68-51 cushion.
“I remember that play, I did the behind-the-back pass, we do that all the time in practice, do a lot of passing and everything came together,” Whitaker said of his pass that led to Allen’s layup.
Allen finished with 11 and Mike Lewis scored 10 for Hamtramck.
Freshman guard Anthony Benard scored 21 for Grosse Pointe South (16-5) with sophomore guard Will Johnson scoring 10.
Hamtramck will face Detroit King (14-6) for the district title at King at 7 p.m. Friday.
“We’re going to have to come out aggressive, locked in and focused,” Whitaker said of facing King and its standout sophomore point guard Chansey Willis. “I know Chansey, we’re close, he’s back, but we have some players and we’re looking forward to it.”
Detroit King 64, Eastpointe 56
King sophomore point guard Chansey Willis Jr. played his first game in more than a month and proved to be the difference.
Willis, who injured his knee in a 59-57 PSL quarterfinal win over Detroit Mumford on Feb. 8, was cleared to play by doctors on Monday, then practiced for the first time since the injury Tuesday.
On Wednesday evening, it looked like Willis had never been out, scoring nine of his team-high 23 points in the opening quarter to give King a 22-17 lead.
And, Willis needed to be at his best with Eastpointe guard Davion Holloway having a big night of his own, scoring 25, making six 3-pointers.
King led 37-27 at halftime and pushed its lead to 39-27 on Omar Zeigler’s dunk before Eastpointe (18-4) went on a 12-3 run to cut the deficit to 42-39 before Willis split two defenders for a driving layup, then followed with a 3-pointer for a 47-41 cushion.
No doubt, Eastpointe wasn’t going away with Holloway making another 3-pointer at the end of the third to pull within 47-44 and then two more long-range shots to get within 56-54 with four minutes left, but King closed out the game with an 8-2 run despite Willis going down twice with cramps.
“It felt special, I had my first practice yesterday and felt I did a good job tonight, and my mom just told me to go home and ice my knee,” Willis said. “They have a good team, No. 11 (Holloway) shoots the ball good, but all we had to do is just stay focused and that’s what we did and won the game.”
When asked if he went down with a knee injury on the two occasions in the fourth quarter, Willis replied: “It was just cramps, my knee is good.”
Gelil Ward scored 13 for King, eight coming in the opening quarter when he made two 3-pointers. He also made three free throws during the fourth quarter.
Davion Watkins scored 11 for Eastpointe.
More boys basketball districts
Dearborn 63, Wayne Memorial 58: Jamil Mashhour had 17 points and 12 rebounds, and Brendan Rousseau and Jack Melton scored 14 each for Dearborn (11-11). Dider Ngambo scored 12 for Wayne (9-12).
Farmington 63, Birmingham Seaholm 24: Jaden Akins scored 19, Prince Jackson 11 and Robert Davis Jr. 10 for Farmington (12-10). Matt Fricke scored nine for Seaholm (11-10).
Macomb Dakota 81, Port Huron 58: Ryan Rollins had 29 points, eight rebounds and five assists, Xavier Glenn 17 points and nine rebounds and Joshua Hines 15 points and five rebounds for Dakota (18-3). DeOvion Price scored 28 for Port Huron (10-11).
Northville 45, Novi 25: Zach Schoemaker scored 16 and Grant Mathiesen 14 for Northville (18-4). Ashton Smith scored 10 for Novi (7-14).
Okemos 71, Jackson 50: Grant Holtzer had 17 points and 10 rebounds, Noah Pruitt 15 points and 12 assists and Austin Gibson 10 points for Okemos (18-4). Damarion Samuels scored 17 for Jackson (7-14).
Orchard Lake St. Mary's 78, Bloomfield Hills 55: Jason Drake scored 31 and Julian Roeper 17 for St. Mary's (21-1). Noah Adamczyk scored 15 for Bloomfield Hills (8-13).
Redford Thurston 74, Livonia Churchill 34: Isaiah Turner and Jordan Buxton each scored 16 for Thurston (18-2). Chase Loving scored 21 for Churchill (1-20).
Roseville 72, St. Clair Shores Lake Shore 68: Anthony Cukaj scored 28 and Jason Hunter 16 for Roseville (12-9). Nick Olmeda scored 32, Elijah Moone 17 and Tariq Ferguson 11 for Lake Shore (12-9).
Troy 71, Utica Eisenhower 45: Ethan Emerzian scored 22 and Iman Hage 10 for Troy (16-5). Jake Mann scored 11 for Eisenhower (5-16).
Walled Lake Northern 33, Milford 30: Kevyn Roberston scored 14 for Northern (13-9). Ron Savage scored 16 for Milford (5-15).
Warren De La Salle 62, Warren Mott 33: Linden Holder and Triston Nichols each scored 14 for De La Salle (13-8). Dennis Mayfield scored 12 for Mott (7-14).
Westland John Glenn 63, Livonia Stevenson 51: Kyle Holt scored 20 for Glenn (15-7). Evan Bradford scored 15 for Stevenson (12-9).
Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook 71, Pontiac Notre Dame 63: Sam Hauxwell scored 16 and Cam Garner 15 for Cranbrook (15-5). Ethan Johnson scored 21 for Notre Dame (5-16).
Detroit Cornerstone 54, Livonia Clarenceville 47: Carlos Paul scored 16 for Cornerstone (8-12). Jay Ealy scored 15 for Clarenceville (9-12).
Detroit Douglass 79, Detroit University Prep Art & Design 52: Pierre Brooks scored 27, Zazion McClendon 19 and Donivan Peoples 16 for Douglass (17-5). Joshua Wilson scored 21 for Art & Design (4-14).
Detroit Henry Ford 50, Redford Union 37: Karron Matthews scored 15 and Wryan Williams 12 for Ford (10-9). Brylon Allison scored 15 for Union (10-10).
Detroit University Prep 90, Detroit West Side 41: Malcolm Kane scored 20 and Sterling Blake 21 for University Prep (7-14). Jalen Baker scored 16 for West Side (1-10).
Ferndale 91, Ferndale University 37: Jayshawn Moore had 16 points, six rebounds and four steals, Treyvon Lewis 15 points and nine rebounds, and Braedan Keener scored 12 for Ferndale (11-9). University finished 8-7.
Harper Woods 60, Detroit Denby 59: Curtis Jackson had 21 points, eight assists, three steals, five rebounds and the winning basket for Harper Woods (8-10). Denby finished 6-13.
Harper Woods Chandler Park 61, St. Clair Shores South Lake 47: Damario Adley had 25 points and 10 rebounds and Jayland Randall 21 points and seven rebounds for Chandler Park (18-2). South Lake finished 7-14.
Romulus Summit North 56, New Boston Huron 39: Orlando Lovejoy scored 21 and Jamel Johnson 15 for Summit North (16-4). New Boston Huron finished at 10-11.
Warren Lincoln 67, Detroit Osborn 62: Xavier Love scored 18 and Stephen Teasley 16 for Lincoln (10-10). Andre Terrell scored 22 for Osborn (3-10).
Detroit Edison 61, Detroit Pershing 54: Calvin Marshall scored 13, Ray Williams 12 and Vincent Cooley 10 for Edison (18-4). Pershing finished 11-8.
Detroit Loyola 81, Madison Heights Bishop Foley 47: Eric Cox scored 18, Mark Mayberry Jr. 15 and Corey Jenkins 12 for Loyola (16-4). Bishop Foley finished 9-12.
Ecorse 77, Allen Park Cabrini 21: Malik Olafioye scored 20, Derrick Kemp scored four with 20 assists and Michael Wood scored 12 with five rebounds for Ecorse (16-6). Cabrini finished at 2-18.
Warren Collegiate 54, Rochester Hills Lutheran Northwest 20: Mikuwan McClain had 16 points and 18 rebounds for Collegiate (15-6). Northwest finished 12-8.
Allen Park Inter-City Baptist 75, Dearborn Heights Wise 28: Luke Fressel scored 15 and Kaleb Chelli 12 for Inter-City (13-9). Hussein Hazamy scored 16 for Wise (0-12).
Novi Christian 75, Bloomfield Hills Roeper 65: Blake Goodman scored 25, Machenezy Blackwell 19 and Jonathan Blackwell 17 for Novi Christian (12-9). Evan Akkashian scored 21, Thai Fowler 17 and Josh Bens 10 for Roeper (16-5).
Detroit News staff contributed