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Arthur Hill cruises into Class A semifinals with 78-59 win over WL Central

By: Bill Khan, March 24, 2015, 10:54 pm

GRAND BLANC — For Eric Davis, it’s not about statistics, not about individual honors.

 It’s about legacy.

 One of the greatest basketball players to come out of tradition-rich Saginaw Arthur Hill, Davis wants to leave behind a state championship banner as a permanent reminder of his four-year career with the Lumberjacks.

 Despite an off night shooting the ball, Davis is one step closer to that goal after Arthur Hill beat Walled Lake Central 78-59 in a Class A quarterfinal on Tuesday night at Grand Blanc.

 Davis was 2-for-11 from the field and had only seven points until a fourth-quarter parade to the free throw line gave him 14. Picking up the slack was  sophomore Brian Bowen, whose game-high 30 points included five 3-pointers and three dunks in a 1:10 span of the fourth quarter.

 Arthur Hill (23-3) advances to the state semifinals for the first time since the 2006 team won the state championship. This is only the third semifinal berth for the Lumberjacks since 1963, the other coming in 1999 when NBA veteran Jason Richardson led the way.

 "It’s a long time, man," Arthur Hill coach Greg McMath said. "Aw, man, it feels great to be back at the Breslin. It’s been our goal all year. … Right now we’re in the semifinals, but we’re not satisfied."

 Davis was part of three Arthur Hill teams that were eliminated by rival Saginaw High in the districts, but McMath emphasized to him that everything has been building toward his senior year.

 "Coach is always saying to leave my mark," said Davis, who has signed with the University of Texas. "That’s the biggest thing. I’m really excited. I got to help coach McMath get to this point. I’m not really satisfied right now. I’m happy, but I want to go out with a state championship. I want people to remember me as a winner."

 In his pursuit of the state’s most coveted team trophy, its biggest individual award barely eluded Davis. He finished second in the Mr. Basketball voting to Muskegon’s Deyonta Davis, who won’t get a chance to defend the state championship after the Big Reds lost to Lansing Everett on Tuesday. Arthur Hill will face Everett at 1 p.m. Friday at the Breslin Center in East Lansing. Everett features the No. 3 vote-getter for Mr. Basketball, Trevor Manuel.

 "The state championship is more important to Eric," McMath said. "Me and him never talked about winning Mr. Basketball. You really don’t know what the criteria is. If you go on a career, then he’d win it hands-down. If you’re going on the year … I really don’t know how they vote. I told him, let’s concentrate on Arthur Hill basketball and the individual stuff will take care of itself."

 In the past, Arthur Hill would’ve been in trouble if Davis didn’t dominate the game offensively. But the Lumberjacks were able to take command of the game against Walled Lake Central, building an 11-point lead early in the third quarter while their star had only five points.

 Bowen had 14 points in the first half and 24 through three quarters before slamming home three late dunks with the game already well in hand. Bowen was 5-for-10 from 3-point range.

 "Once I made my first one, I figured it was going to be a good night shooting," Bowen said.

 Davis got himself into double figures by going 7-for-8 from the line in the fourth quarter. He finished 10-for-12 from the stripe. His only two field goals came on fast-break layups 17 seconds apart early in the second quarter.

 "It was one of those nights," Davis said. "I couldn’t do anything about it. Coach always tells me if you can’t score, do something else. I felt I dominated the game getting people involved, controlling the game. I rebounded pretty well, defended pretty well. It wasn’t my night offensively. I’m just going to leave it where it’s at and get ready for Friday."

 The Vikings (20-6), playing in their first quarterfinal since 1993, stayed in the game for most of the first half. The game was 14-14 after one quarter and, after Arthur Hill built a 21-14 lead, became 23-23 when Walled Lake Central’s Nate Collins made a breakaway layup with 2:42 left in the second quarter.

 Anton Kucaj missed two free throws that would’ve given the Vikings the lead with 1:59 left in the first half. From there, Bowen scored the final eight points of the half to give the Lumberjacks a 31-23 lead. That ignited a 23-7 run that put Arthur Hill in control.

 "The first half was going kind of how we expected it," Vikings coach Chuck Spolsky said. "We had the matchups we wanted out there. That 8-0 run in the last minute to go up 31-23 was a big difference in the game. Coming into halftime, they had a lot of momentum; that was huge."

 The Vikings’ last run came at the start of the fourth quarter after they fell behind 54-35. Walled Lake Central opened the fourth with a 7-0 run, cutting the deficit to 54-42 with 6:31 remaining, but the Lumberjacks were 14-for-20 from the line and had four dunks in the fourth quarter to put it away.

 Willie Rodgers scored 12 points for Arthur Hill.

 Walter Kelser scored 18 points, Lucaj 17 and Collins 11 for Walled Lake Central.

 "(Bowen) came in and played great," Spolsky said. "You’ve got to give it to that kid. We knew he was good. We were going to take away their senior and force a sophomore to beat us."