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March 2, 2002
Two Signees See Season End
Due to local interest in Tuesday's Texas Class 5A regional quarterfinal between Cedar Hill and The Colony, the game was held at SMU's 8500-seat Moody Coliseum. A major part of the attraction was the individual matchup of two McDonald's All-American guards, 6-3 Michigan signee Daniel Horton of Cedar Hill and 6-3 Indiana signee Bracy Wright of The Colony. The game also presented Cedar Hill with the chance to avenge their season-ending loss to The Colony a year before, when the Longhorns saw a seven-point lead slip away in the final 1:16.
At the halfway point of Tuesday's meeting, Cedar Hill trailed by a point, but the Longhorns charged out of the intermission and quickly seized the lead, thanks in large part to Horton's three third-period three-pointers. A 49-38 Cedar Hill lead early in the fourth quarter might have appeared safe, but The Colony was soon giving Horton & Co. flashbacks from a year earlier. After a 12-4 run, The Colony had pulled to within just three points.
Then the comeback stalled. Cedar Hill turned the ball over three times in the final 2:40, yet The Colony could not convert any of the opportunities. With 18 seconds remaining, the Longhorns made a pair of free throws to secure the victory, which they claimed by a final margin of 56-50.
"We started thinking about last year's game a little," Horton (right), who led all scorers with 26 points, told the Dallas Morning News. "They made a run at us, but this time we withstood it."
Cedar Hill advanced to the regional semifinals in Midland, where it met Midland Lee on Fri., Mar. 1. After the rematch with The Colony, the Midland Lee game might have seemed anti-climactic by comparison. Unfortunately, it was far more climactic for Cedar Hill than anyone had expected.
Perhaps the Longhorns had already penciled themselves in as state champs after beating The Colony. More likely, they struggled to make up for an off night by Horton, who was hampered by back spasms. Whatever the reason, Cedar Hill fell to Lee -- a team it had beaten 89-53 earlier in the year -- by a score of 57-46.
Horton hit just 7 of 25 shots from the field, including just 1 of 12 three-pointers. After the game, according to the Morning News, he stayed in the locker room for an hour and did not talk to reporters.
"He was having back spasms and it was really bothering him," his brother and backcourt mate, Jason, told the paper. It was a very understandable reason for Horton's struggles, but it likely provided him little solace; he had hoped to end the season with a trophy, not a good excuse.
* * *
Friday night was also unkind to Pontiac (Mich.) Northern, although unlike Cedar Hill, the Huskies will live to play another day. Northern had rested its star, 6-6 Michigan wing signee Lester Abram, in its two preceding game in the Oakland Activities Association playoffs, and had won each. The Huskies shellacked Bloomfield Hills Lahser last week, 83-43, then eked out a 45-44 win against Southfield on Feb. 26.
Those two wins brought the Huskies' record to 16-3 and moved them into a showdown with Clarkston in the OAA title game. The teams had met on two occasions earlier in the season, with each winning once.
In their third meeting, the Wolves bettered their cousins, the Huskies, by a score of 70-52. Abram (right) was back in the lineup, but had to battle foul trouble to score a team-high 18 points, and no one else stepped up enough to get the team over the hump. Clarkston's 6-10 center, Dave Ritzema, caused matchup problems for the Huskies, whose tallest player is Abram. Ritzema led his team with 22 points and 10 rebounds.
Now 16-4 and ranked No. 4 in the state by the Detroit Free Press, Northern moves into District Tournament play, the first stage of the state tourney, focused on defending last year's Class A state title. On Wed., Mar. 6, the Huskies will meet the winner of the Mon., Mar. 4 game between Pontiac Central and Rochester High.
Rochester's star center, Michigan State signee and McDonald's All-American Paul Davis, is out for the remainder of the season with a broken ankle. There is a good likelihood that Northern will face Central for the fourth and final time this season. Central is the District host, and is ranked No. 6 in Class A by the Free Press.
The Free Press recently took a look at the 2002 Hal Schram Mr. Basketball Award race. Abram is one of the top contenders in what could be a much closer contest than in 2001 or 2000, when Kelvin Torbert of Flint Northwestern and Marcus Taylor of Lansing Waverly, respectively, won by wide margins.
The favorite, Michigan State signee Paul Davis of Rochester High, saw an impressive senior season come to a premature end two weeks ago when he suffered an ankle fracture. The fact that Davis will not play a full season is probably the only thing that could prevent him from winning, although the injustice of effectively punishing him for a freak accident is not likely to be lost on voters. As the article noted, Michigan freshman Tabitha Pool won the 2001 Miss Basketball award despite playing just 13 games for Ann Arbor Huron before a knee injury ended her season.
Nonetheless, Abram and Florida guard signee Anthony Roberson of Saginaw High can each make an argument that they should receive consideration. Whereas Rochester has mustered a mediocre record, Pontiac Northern and Saginaw High are among the state's best Class A teams.
Abram was averaging 24.5 points, 11.4 rebounds and 4.7 assists and shooting 62 percent from the field and 88 percent from the line through Feb. 24. "He was the No. 2 option on last year's Class A state championship team, and he has become the No. 1 man this season," wrote the Free Press. "He has played the point at times and is capable of taking the ball coast-to-coast. His perimeter game has improved dramatically this season."
Abram cannot improve upon his team's accomplishments of a year ago, though. He would be more than happy simply to match them. As the last few weeks have shown, however, it will not be easy.
* * *
Gary (Ind.) West Side opened postseason play in the Sectional tournament on Tue., Feb. 26 against Munster High. The Cougars never got to let down their guard in the game, taking a narrow 45-42 lead into the final quarter. But a 12-1 run to open the period assured that West Side would be win its playoff opener for the first time since 1999, after enduring upset losses at the same point in each of the past two years.
Michigan signee Chris Hunter (right), a 6-11 power forward/center, tallied 15 points and nine rebounds as the Cougars pulled away to a 67-53 win. From there, West Side moved on to a Sectional semifinal meeting with Lake Central on Fri., Mar. 1.
The Cougars made quick work of Lake Central, clearing their bench with five minutes remaining en route to a 61-39 victory. Hunter and his Penn State-bound teammate, Brandon Cameron, each scored 12 points to pace the team. With the win, West Side advanced to the Sectional title game Saturday evening against Gary Lew Wallace. The Cougars won each of the teams' two meetings earlier in the season.
Looking ahead to the challenges that face his team, Boyd keyed on Hunter and the contributions that would be needed from him. "Chris understands and knows he's going to get banged up," Boyd told the Gary Post-Tribune. "He's going to have to make strong, aggressive moves.
"He showed great poise in the Munster game and showed his maturity and leadership ability. As the games go on, I really think he's going to be the deciding factor."
* * *
Michigan signee Graham Brown, a 6-9 center/power forward, and his Mio (Mich.) High School team have been dominant this season. The Thunderbolts went undefeated in regular-season play and are ranked No. 2 in Class D.
Without question, they are among the favorites for the Class D state championship, as their record and ranking suggest. Mio opens play in the District Tournament, which it hosts, on Mon., Mar. 4 against Twining Arenac Eastern. If the Thunderbolts survive and advance, their path to the Class D Final Four in East Lansing will lead through the regionals at Gaylord Mar. 12-16 and a quarterfinal at Cadillac Mar. 19.
"He is the most dominant player in northern Michigan," the Free Press said of Brown in its Mr. Basketball Award preview. "He is unstoppable in the post and has become a better defensive player. He is an excellent shot blocker and rebounder."
* * *
The Wolverines' other center signee, 6-10 Amadou Ba (right) of Bridgton (Maine) Academy, saw his season end in the NEPSAC Conference quarterfinals on Feb. 27. Bridgton, the No. 6 seed, fell to No. 3 seed Worcester Academy, 53-71. The Wolverine will get a more complete update on Ba's season from his coach in the near future.
* * *
Junior guard Dion Harris of Detroit Redford, a top recruiting priority of the Wolverines', lit up the scoreboard in Redford's final two regular-season games. Harris followed up a 26-point showing in a 70-66 win over Detroit Rogers by scoring 30 points as the Huskies improved to 17-2 with a 70-53 defeat of Orchard Lake St. Mary's.
Redford heads into district play ranked No. 25 nationally by USA Today and No. 2 in Michigan's Class A by the Free Press. On Mon., Mar. 4 the Huskies will face district host Redford Catholic Central. If they win, they will meet Southfield in a semifinals matchup.
* * *
The Free Press is just the latest publication to take a look at 6-10 North Muskegon junior Drew Naymick, one of Michigan's top targets in the Class of 2003. An article on Monday mentioned interest by such schools as Michigan State, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Stanford.
In addition to averages of 20.8 points and 11 rebounds per game, the article noted that Naymick carries a 3.7 grade-point average in the classroom. And that is not all there is to like.
"The coaches say they like the way he runs the court," North Muskegon coach Jeff Cooke told the paper. "They say he's got good hands. He's not a 6-10 string bean. He's got big shoulders and he's already got a muscular cut. Drew has a super work ethic and he has a real good shooting touch.
"He's got good timing and he catches his own blocks, which, obviously, is a plus. He's definitely big-time. A lot of schools tell him he will come in and play right away."