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North Farmington reaches state final as Thomas scores 26

By: Tom Markowski, March 25, 2016, 5:54 pm

(PHOTO CREDIT: Dave Donohoer)


East Lansing – Some might say it’s been an easy road for North Farmington to the state final but don’t tell that to senior Billy Thomas.

The Raiders played two teams ranked in the top 10 in Class A during the regular season and none of the six opponents it faced in the state tournament leading up to Saturday’s final were ranked at any time during the season.

Thomas, a 6-foot guard, had 24 points to lead North Farmington to a 60-48 victory over Lansing Everett in a Class A semifinal on Friday.

Ninth-ranked North Farmington (24-2), which made its first appearance in a semifinal, will play top-ranked U-D Jesuit (27-0) for the championship on Saturday at noon.

The two semifinals drew 11,303 to the Breslin Center.

Everett (16-11) lost for the second consecutive season in a semifinal. Last season the Vikings lost to Saginaw Arthur Hill.

Thomas played in this round before. As a sophomores at U-D, Thomas and Cassius Winston were backcourt mates as U-D lost to Bloomfield Hills, 85-75 in a 2014 semifinal.

Thomas then transferred to North Farmington and wasn’t ruled eligible until there were three games left in the regular season. He played those games but the Michigan High School Athletic Association ruled him ineligible for the tournament.

This is his first full season with coach Todd Negoshian.

“Last year was really frustrating,” Thomas said. “It wasn’t fair to me and my family. I’ve been waiting for this moment.”

Last season U-D defeated North Farmington 52-34 in a region final.

“It was a frustrating loss last year,” Thomas said. “I still look at U-D as my family. It’ll be just another game.

“I’ve been expecting this. It’ll be an intense matchup.”

North Farmington did not play well in the first half against Everett yet still led, 20-17.

Neither team shot well from the field. The difference came at the free throw line where the Raiders were 8-of-10; Everett 4-10.

Thomas opened up the seconds half with consecutive 3-pointers. Alex Darden followed with a basket, Amauri Hardy converted a 3-point play and Jacob Joubert made a 3-pointer for a 34-17 lead three minutes in.

“We guarded well (in the third quarter),” Negoshian said. “We had to keep getting stops. We shared the ball in the third quarter.”

Everett’s Jamyrin Jackson, one of two returning starters, was held to three points in the first half and finished with 27. He scored his team’s final 12 points of the third quarter and the first three of the fourth. His 3-pointer with 4:34 remaining brought the Vikings to within, 45-37, but that’s as close as they got.

“We had some guys who weren’t used to the Breslin floor,” he said. “It was too much for them.”

Jackson was 7-of-16 from the 3-point range but he had little help. LeAndre Wright added 10 points and no other Viking scored more than four.

Hardy added 15 points for North Farmington and Darden had 14 rebounds, five points and four blocks.