Stoney Creek wins first district title, overpowers Rochester, 42-28
Rochester Hills – A dozen thoughts whipped through Evan Becker’s head as he held the ball for the final 20 seconds. When the final horn finally sounded it was as if Becker didn’t know what to do or whom to embrace.
Cut him some slack. Rochester Hills Stoney Creek had never won a boys district title in the school’s 15-year history until Friday and everything is new for Becker and the Stoney Creek program.
Becker, a senior who saw limited playing time last season, scored 14 points including a momentum-changing 3-pointer to lead the Cougars to a 42-28 victory over Rochester in a Class A district final at Stoney Creek.
Stoney Creek had reached a district final three times previously including last season when it lost to Rochester Adams.
“I had incredible thoughts,” Becker said of the final moments. “It’s incredible. And to do it on our home floor. There was no pressure on us. We just played as hard as we could.”
This wasn’t supposed to be Stoney Creek’s season. The Cougars were perhaps more talented last season and graduation losses took 85 percent of their scoring away. Talent is one measure of team’s worth but, in this case, not the most important.
“We love each other,” Becker said. “We love coming to work every day. We play defense. We don’t have any superstars.”
Stoney Creek (18-5) will play Linden (9-13) in Monday’s second regional semifinal at Grand Blanc. Clarkston (22-1), ranked No. 5, will play No. 7-ranked Macomb Dakota (19-3) at 5:30 p.m. Stoney Creek’s game will follow.
“I guess we’ll be the JV game,” Stoney Creek coach Steve Norgrove said. “That’s okay. We’ll take it.”
This is Norgrove’s seventh season at Stoney Creek. He spent the previous eight seasons as the head coach at Farmington. He never won a district at Farmington so, ironically, he, too, had to wait 15 seasons.
“When I was fortunate enough to get hired here seven years ago, this was our goal,” he said. “These guys were in middle school back then. This isn’t just one season. They’re playing for all of the other guys who came before them.
“Our goal this season wasn’t to go 20-0. It was to go 1-0 every night. And tonight we were 1-0.
“Coaches will tell you, you have to have luck to win a title. It didn’t hurt (playing at home). We can’t control power outages.”
The final was scheduled to be played at Utica High but the school was without power forcing the teams to play their game elsewhere. Norgrove went to his athletic director, Rick Jakacki, to convince him to move the game to Stoney Creek.
“When I talked to him he said he already did it,” Norgrove said. “We lucked out with the venue. We’ll take it.”
So Jakacki should get some credit for this title, too.
The Cougars led 18-15 at halftime and they weren’t able to pull away until the fourth quarter. There were seven lead changes in the first half and three times the game was tied.
An Ivan Barraza basket pulled Rochester (11-11) to within 21-18 and coach John Pleasant called time out with 4:38 left in the third quarter. Stoney Creek showed patience on its next possession but a missed shot led to a 50-50 ball. Becker got the rebound and a few seconds later his second 3-pointer of the game doubled the Cougars’ lead.
Stoney Creek led 29-23 with 5:30 remaining before it went on an 11-2 run to put the game out of reach.
Junior Nate Davis added 11 points for the Cougars and 6-3 junior Mike Melaragni, the lone returning starter, had 14 rebounds and seven points. Just as important was his work on the defensive end against 6-7 Rochester junior, Lamarkco Gulledge. Gulledge had seven points and 10 rebounds before fouling out with three minutes to play.
“I had to stop him going to his left,” Melaragni said of Gulledge. “He’s going to get his points. He likes to a drop step to his left and I just tried to put a body on him.
“This (title) means everything. For the seniors, those who maybe just played one season, and for the others that played here. It’s great. We don’t have any pressure on us now. We can go out and play loose. We were favored in the district and the pressure was on.”
Maybe now teams will look at the program at Stoney Creek a little differently after Friday’s milestone.