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U-D Jesuit wins first state title, Winston ends career a winner

By: Tom Markowski, March 26, 2016, 3:36 pm

(PHOTO CREDIT: Dave Donoher)


Detroit – Move over Keith Appling of Detroit Pershing, Mark Harris of Flint Central, David Kool of Grand Rapids South Christian and Ralph Simpson of Pershing. You have company in the lore of state final history.

Cassius Winston played perhaps his best high school game on the biggest stage – the Class A final. Winston was 14-of-16 from the field and had 31 points, nine assists and four rebounds as U-D Jesuit defeated North Farmington 69-49 at the Breslin Center on Saturday.

It’s U-D’s first state title and it’s the first time a non-public school won the Class A title since Detroit Catholic Central, coached by Bernie Holowicki, defeated Saginaw 59-57 in 1976.

The aforementioned players all led their respective schools to victory in a state-final game with jaw-dropping performances. Appling scored a state-final record 49 points in Pershing’s 90-73 victory over Kalamazoo Central in 2009. Harris had 44 points in Central’s 108-90 victory over Detroit Murray-Wright in ’81. Kool made a state-final record 20 free throws on his way to a 43-point performance as South Christian defeated Muskegon Heights, 67-60, and Simpson also scored 43 points in Pershing’s 90-66 victory over Flint Central in ’67.

All came in a Class A final except for South Christian, which was in Class B.

“Players like me live for the big moment,” Winston said.

Winston and the Cubs made it look easy. Most of his baskets came off of dribble penetration as Winston used his body to wiggle and worm his way to the basket.

He was 2-of-3 from the 3-point range and he split his two free throw attempts.

U-D (28-0) outscored North Farmington (24-3) in every quarter and never trailed. The Cubs led 6-0 and four times the Raiders cut the deficit to one point in the first quarter.

Winston had 22 points at halftime, was 10-of-11 from the field and U-D led 39-27.

“We felt like if we could keep Cassius out of the paint we’d have a chance,” North Farmington coach Todd Negoshian said. “That’s the best I’ve seen him play in four years. That’s the Cassius that’s going to Michigan State. Maybe it was the big stage.

“That was the hardest I’ve seen him go to the basket. He’s an unbelievable facilitator. He flipped the switch. They have the hidden thing that they let out.”

North Farmington had never reached the semifinals before this season.

U-D coach Pat Donnelly said he wasn’t surprised by Winston’s performance. He’d seen it before.

“He scored 39 points in a tournament game before,” Donnelly said. “Cassius is Cassius. I think he’ll go on to do great things. It was one of the best if not the best games he’s had.

“It’s God-given ability. Cassius doesn’t always pass the eye test. He’s not chiseled out in stone. I like to say he has an old-man’s game. He uses his body so well.”

Winston’s teammate at U-D two years ago, Billy Thomas, had 23 points to lead North Farmington. No other player had more than eight for the Raiders. Thomas played well but, like his teammates, he didn’t shoot well. Thomas was 9-of-21 (42.8 percent) from the field. The Raiders were 20-59 (33.9). North Farmington, normally a good perimeter shooting team, was 5-24 (20.8 percent) from the 3-point range.

Thomas dismissed the notion that his matchup with Winston was a game within a game.

“I wasn’t taking it as a challenge,” Thomas said. “I wanted to win the game.”

Whereas Thomas received little help, Winston teammates were in sync. U-D held a 36-23 edge in rebounds and shot 63 percent (29-46) from the field. Ike Eke, who experienced foul difficulty in the semifinal, had 10 points and 13 rebounds, and Scott Nelson had 13 points. Greg Eboigbodin added eight points and eight rebounds.

Back to the historical significance of U-D’s victory. None of the players mentioned above won Mr. Basketball that season. Appling and Kool were both juniors then, and both were named Mr. Basketball the following season. Harris was a senior but didn’t win the award. His teammate, Eric Turner, did. Simpson was simply born too soon. The first season the award was given out was in ’81.

Antione Joubert of Detroit Southwestern scored 47 points in the ’83 Class A title game and he was named Mr. Basketball that season. But his team lost in the final to Flint Central.

Joubert’s son, Jacob Joubert, was the starting point guard for North Farmington this season.

Matt Schearer and Winston were the only seniors in the starting lineup for U-D. Schearer’s father, Tim Schearer, played in the 1977 Birmingham Brother Rice team that lost to Magic Johnson and Lansing Everett, 62-56, in overtime in the Class A final. That was also the last season a private school reached the Class A final until Saturday.

“It hasn’t hit me yet,” Winston said. “As the game was going on I knew something was going right. I kept going.

“I don’t know what ‘old-man’s game’ means. I just use what I have, change speeds. I just use all the tricks in my bag.”