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Western reaches first PSL final since 1938; top-ranked Cowboys to play Renaissance for the title

By: Tom Markowski, February 13, 2015, 10:10 pm


Detroit – Josh McFolley finally played with the style his coach had in mind on Friday.

Top-ranked Detroit Western got all it could handle, and all it expected, from Detroit Pershing in a Detroit Public School League semifinal at Detroit Cass Tech. That is until McFolley started to play the way Western coach Derrick McDowell had hoped he would when McFolley became eligible the second semester.

McFolley, a transfer from Mount Clemens, scored 13 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter to lead Western to a 70-60 victory over the two-time defending PSL champions.

Western (16-0) will play Detroit Renaissance (11-6) for the title next Friday at Calihan Hall at 7 p.m.

Renaissance defeated Detroit East English Village Prep 50-46 in the second semifinal.

Renaissance won back-to-back PSL titles in 2003-04 and hasn’t reached the finals since.

Reaching the final is quite an accomplishment for Western. Its only city title came in 1922. Previous to this season it made the final three other times, the last coming in ’38.

“We’ve been waiting for this since the start of the season,” Western senior center Gerald Blackshear said.

When asked about the fine play of McFolley, McDowell said one word three times, “finally, finally, finally”.

So is it “McFinally?”

McFolley was good with that. He took it in stride. After all, his team got the victory and now the Cowboys have a chance to win the school’s first boys’ city basketball title in 93 years.

McDowell defended his senior guard by saying this was just McFolley’s fourth game and that it’s taken McFolley time to adjust to Western’s, or better yet, McDowell’s way of playing.

“It’s the style,” McDowell said. “He has to get used to the style. He’s a big time player.”

McFolley and fellow Mount Clemens transfer, Gerald Blackshear were Western’s best players on this night but by no means was it a two-player show. Western appeared to wear down Pershing in the fourth quarter and it also played with more poise.

One of Pershing’s guard, Marquel Ingram, was assessed a technical foul with 4:52 remaining and McFolley made both free throws for a 57-49 lead.

After Western called time out leading 61-55 with 3:12 left, an incident took place near the Western bench and two technical were called, one on Western’s bench, the other on Pershing guard Armone Felder.

Felder, who scored 14 points, fouled out with 47.1 seconds left and his team trailing 65-60.

“My guards didn’t play with poise,” Pershing coach Wydell Henry said. “They let me down. Felder is a sophomore. Ron Hill is a freshman. We didn’t go to Marquel enough in the fourth.”

Felder had 10 off his 14 points in the fourth. Ingram had nine, none in the fourth.

“I have to give it to my teammates,” McFolley said. “Without them I couldn’t do it. I was looking to be aggressive. I feel I’m getting used to the style.”

There’s that word again. McFolley said at Mount Clemens he was taught to play help defense. In this defense a player knew he could over play the player he was guarding and still count on his teammates to back him if the player he was responsible for eluded hm.

Not so at Western. McDowell expects, demands that his players say with their assignment no matter what.

David Syfax had 18 points to lead Pershing (10-8) but he only had two in the fourth. But it was Syfax, a 6-6 junior, who helped keep Pershing in the game. He was going against the 6-6 Blackshear who, like McFolley, signed with Detroit. Sytax played Blackshear straight up and had four blocks to go with his 11 rebounds.

Blackshear had 16 points, four blocks and 15 rebounds.

Renaissance led 27-17 after a Justin Turner 3-point play with 4:41 left in the first half before East English (13-4) scored 10 straight to tie it at halftime 27-27.

Karmani Newman (18 points) scored to give East English a 38-33 lead with 2:32 left in the third quarter and his 3-pointer increased the Bulldogs’ lead to 44-40 with 5:39 remaining. East English, which defeated Renaissance 70-68 last month, would not score another basket.

A Turner 3-pointer cut the deficit to one and Alaric Jackson, an unlikely candidate to make a 3-pointer, did just that to tie the game at 46-46 for Renaissance with 3:21 left.

Turner made a 10-foot runner to give Renaissance a 48-46 lead with 59.5 seconds left and Jackson, a 6-6, 290-pound junior, iced the game with two free throws with 3.4 seconds left.

“It’s what I do,” Jackson said of making the 3-pointer. “Yeah, I was nervous (at the free throw line). I knew if I made it we would go to Calihan.”

Jackson estimated he’s made 10 3-pointers this season

He has the green light.

“He can shoot,” Renaissance coach Venias Jordan, Jr., said. “He’s allowed to shoot the three. And he’s our best free throw shooter. He shoots 75 percent. Everyone else is under 70.”

 Turner led Renaissance with 17 points, Darryl Smith added 11 and Jalen Tobias 10.