BOYS BASKETBALL: Clarkston cruises into regional finals with rout of cold-shooting Troy Athens
BY DAN STICKRADT
SOUTHFIELD — All season long, veteran Clarkston boys basketball coach Dan Fife has seen the steady development of his now deep bench. It was on full display Monday night.
The Wolves, the OAA Red Division co-champions, sent 14 of 15 players into the scoring column and rolled to a 70-36 triumph over Troy Athens in a Class A regional semifinal at Southfield Lathrup High School.
Clarkston (20-4) advances to the regional finals for the first time since 2011. Athens (17-6) bows out in the regional semifinals for the second straight season.
“All season long, I’ve seen our bench players get better and contribute more and more,” said Fife. “Tonight, we had (Andrew Swanson and Jonah Newblatt) come in and hit three right away. We have a lot of guys coming off the bench and contributing.”
Clarkston fought tooth-and-nail for a 15-13 lead at the end of the first quarter, closing the frame with a quick 7-2 run that was capped by a three-pointer from Newblatt. After that, it was all Clarkston.
The Wolves went on a 16-0 run in the second quarter and opened up the third quarter with another 10-0 spurt. In all, Athens did not score since there was seven seconds left in the first quarter until the 4:12 mark of the third quarter when Mike Williams swished a three-pointer. By that point, the Wolves were in complete control at 41-16.
In all, Clarkston’s run spanned parts of three quarters and finished with a 29-0 spurt over 11:49 of game clock.
“We beat a pretty good team with some good defense,” said Fife, whose program had won 19 straight district crowns only to see his program bow out in the districts in both 2012 and 2013. “We did a good job not allowing them to get he ball in the post. Mike Nicholson is tall and long and we he did a nice job inside not letting (the Athens post players) be effective.”
Athens’ 6-foot-5 post players, Corbin Vrij and John Van Hoef, were held in check after having big weeks during district play. Vrij had just four points and six boards, while Van Hoef was held to two points and seven rebounds.
Athens, tri-champions of the OAA White Division, had put together its best full week of the campaign last week in winning the Pontiac district. The Red Hawks went ice cold against the Wolves, going a season low 15-for-54 from the floor (27.8 percent).
Williams, the Red Hawks’ lone senior, finished with 11 points for Athens, although the Red Hawks did not have another player score more than six points.
“I think they missed some shots and then they rushed some things and the game got away from them a little bit. We were hitting our shots,” said Fife. “There were four games this season where we lost confidence and the game got away from us. We know what it’s like.”
Clarkston finished the night shooting 50 percent from the floor (25-for-50). The Wolves could have pulled away even further, although they shot just 16-for-31 from the charity stripe (52 percent).
Nicholson led Clarkston with 11 points and 12 rebounds. Junior guard Andrew Myers added nine points and five assists and senior guard Danny Owens added eight points for the Wolves, who held a 40-27 edge on the boards.
Clarkston will face Bloomfield Hills at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the regional finals, also at Lathrup. Bloomfield Hills won the second game Monday, 83-76.