Barnes, Woods Tower regain composure, take district opener
Grosse Pointe – The state tournament invariably raises the emotional level of players, coaches and fans. Warren Woods Tower senior C.J. Barnes got caught up in the emotional frenzy on Monday and his actions nearly cost his team.
Woods Tower trailed St. Clair Shores Lake Shore 12-9 in the opener of the Class A district at Grosse Pointe North. Barnes was called for a foul with 29.1 seconds left in the first quarter and displayed his displeasure so much so that he was assessed a technical. Lake Shore attempted five free throws, the common foul being from behind the 3-point circle, but the Shorians made but one and were unable to convert on the ensuing possession allowing an opportunity to increase their lead slip by.
Lake Shore led 13-9 at the end of the first quarter as the Titans escaped what could have been a more significant deficit.
But there was still the problem of Barnes and his temper that coach Nick Evola had to face. Barnes is one if his best players, certainly his top senior. Barnes had scored 20 or more points in each of his last three games and is more than just an emotional leader.
“He’s a high-energy, high-motor guy,” Evola said. “We had a talk at halftime.”
Points were at a premium in this game. Lake Shore made just 14 baskets in the first three quarters; Woods Tower 12. The three officials often allowed the play to become physical without calling a foul. This led to many contested shots with contact where fouls were not called.
The players adjusted. Lake Shores took its largest lead, 35-29, on a basket by Mark Hill with 5:07 remaining. Woods Tower answered with back-to-back 3-pointers by Kaegan Sikorski and Jauron Vicks to tie the game at 35-35 54 seconds later.
Cortez Jackson’s two free throws gave the Shorians what would be their last lead, 40-39, with 1:36 left.
Lake Shore’s full-court press caused havoc and Woods Tower’s fifth and final turnover of the fourth was a direct result, and led to Jackson’s free throws.
Lake Shore kept the press on and, amidst a scramble for the ball, Woods Tower point guard Jalen Harrison gained control and found Barnes unguarded in the left corner. Barnes made the 3-pointer giving the Titans a 42-40 lead and they held on to win, 46-42.
Robert Anderson and Harrison each made two free throws in the final 52.6 seconds to slam the door shut on the Shorians (17-4), which won the Macomb Area Conference Silver Division title and were picked by many to win the district title.
Woods Tower (16-5) was a formidable team during the regular season as well. Two of its losses were to New Haven, ranked No. 4 in Class B.
There were six lead changes and six times the game was tied. Neither team seemingly had an edge. It was Woods Tower that made the big plays at the end. None was bigger than Barnes’ shot.
“Emotions were high,” he said. “I play with emotion. I love these guys. They’re my brothers.
“I figured (Lake Shore) scouted me, being on a hot streak. Jalen’s my point guard. I trust him when he has it.”
Vicks, a starter and one of six juniors in Evola’s rotation, led the Titans with 15 points and seven rebounds. Vincent Browning added seven points and nine rebounds. Barnes had six points on two 3-pointers in the second half.
“It was just belief,” Evola said. “We have a young group. They believe in each other. We have multiple guys who can score. C.J. is one of our captains. He’s one of our leaders. We want him to play with emotions. Sometimes it’s a little too much.”
For Lake Shore Jovon Horton had 17 points, 15 in the second half as he made three 3-pointers.
“We were stagnant against their zone,” Lake Shore coach Derrick Walton, Sr., said. “You can’t stand still against a zone. Woods Tower played a solid game. We missed too many layups and missed too many free throws.”
Lake Shore was five-of-12 from the free throw line and the four it missed after Barnes’ blowup proved pivotal.
Woods Tower will play St. Clair Shores Lakeview (4-16) on Wednesday in a semifinal at 5:30 p.m.