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BOYS BASKETBALL: Bloomfield Hills survives late comeback, downs Oak Park in Class A regional semis

By: Jeff Dullack, March 11, 2014, 8:00 am
LATHRUP VILLAGE – Throughout its current playoff run, Bloomfield Hills has made winning look relatively easy, as the Black Hawks have been cruising all postseason long.
So when Bloomfield Hills found itself up 25 points, 73-48, on Oak Park early in the fourth quarter of their Clas A regional semifinal showdown at Southfield-Lathrup High School Monday night, just about everyone in the gym, believed that it was a done deal that the Black Hawks were heading to the regional final on Wednesday night.
But Oak Park had something to say about the matter as it broke off a 26-5 run, capped off by a Ja’Christian Biles 3-pointer that cut the once comfortable Black Hawks’ lead to 78-74 with just over four minutes left to play. However, following a Bloomfield Hills timeout that calmed the troops, the Black Hawks regained their composure and picked up an 83-76 win to advance into the regional finals for the second year in a row.
The Black Hawks (21-3) will now face Clarkston, who they have bested twice already this season, in a regional championship game on Wednesday at Southfield Lathrup at 5:30
“Oak Park is a great team and they’re very talented, so we figured that the game should be within 10 points automatically," Bloomfield Hills head coach Duane Graves said. "We got hot and basketball is a game of highs and lows and we got our highs early and our lows came later. We were just lucky to get the ball to bounce our way towards the way and finish it up. Our timeouts were just to regroup and re-gather ourselves. We had to remember that we’re dealing with young men and that the emotions of the game can get kind of crazy.”
Leading the charge for the Black Hawks was senior Khalil Gracey, who was locked in all night long, as he poured in a game-high 36 points on the night, 21 coming in the second half.
While Gracey was on fire throughout the night, knocking down 3-pointers and throwing down dunks, perhaps his biggest contribution of the night was his basket to push the Bloomfield Hills lead to 78-71 and then adding two more free throws to give his team a six point lead in the closing 90 seconds of action
“I think we got tired a little bit,” said Gracey of the way the game ended. “But we picked it up in the end and picked up the win and that’s all that matters right now.”
The Black Hawks took their 73-48 lead after a thunderous dunk from star senior center Yante Maten. Yet Oak Park went on to score 23 of the next 26 points of the game to cut the deficit down to 76-71 after a Rodney Scales basket and Biles’ triple.
Gracey was their to throw down another one of his dunk and Maten knocked down free throws late to salt the game away for Bloomfield Hills.
Maten finished with yet another monstrous stat-line, scoring 23 points and hauling in 18 rebounds on the night in front of several scouts on hand to see the standout big fella compete.
Maten said that he felt his team was pressing too hard in the fourth quarter and that turned into some costly mistakes that helped allow Oak Park get back into the game.
“We were trying to press like we were down,” he said. “That ended up being a situation that we didn’t need to keep pushing it like we were, we could keep pushing it, but not to the extent to where we made silly turnovers and things like that.”
Oak Park went 18-6 in 2014 and won the OAA White (co-champs with Troy and Troy Athens). Biles poured in 22 points and sophomore power forward Kelvon Fuller tallied 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Knights in defeat.