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BOYS BASKETBALL: Clarkston the champs again, Wolves’ reclaim district title by dropping Stoney Creek

By: Scott Burnstein, March 8, 2014, 8:00 am

LAKE ORION – The last two years probably felt like the equivalent of two hundred for the Clarkston Wolves.

March just didn’t seem the same without Dan Fife’s Wolves making a deep run in the state boys basketball tournament.

This past week eight-time defending OAA Red-champion Clarkston re-found its playoff-footing by winning three straight to bag the team’s first district-title since 2011, capped by the Wolves 62-41 defeat of Stoney Creek Friday night at Lake Orion High School in a Class A district final.

They’ll face Troy Athens, co-champions out of the OAA White Division, in the regional semifinals Monday at Southfield-Lathrup.

Between 1994 and 2011, Clarkston won 18 consecutive district crowns.

The Wolves (19-4) had been upset the last two seasons, in 2012 by Fenton on a buzzer-beating 3 and in 2013 by a rampaging Romeo squad.

“Anything that could go wrong, went wrong for us these past couple state tournaments, so getting this win tonight feels pretty darn good,” said Fife, the longtime Clarkston head coach who recently picked up his 600th career victory on the sidelines, following Friday’s satisfying triumph.

It wasn’t easy for Fife and his club, though, as the Wolves withstood a valiant, scrappy effort from underdog Stoney Creek (15-8).

Clarkston only led 27-25 at halftime and 39-32 after three quarters of action.

However, Fife’s Wolfpack strung together a lightning-fast 13-0 run that spanned the end of the third and into the fourth and put the game to bed.

Highlighting the late scoring-surge was a 3-point parade delivered by seniors Nick Owens and Drew Swanson and junior Dayton Wallis. A triple by each of them in less than 90 seconds jumped the Clarkston lead from single-digits to double-digits (39-32 to 48-32) and the rout was on.

Owens (13 points) is one of the premiere snipers in the state. He’ll be playing in college next year at Madonna University in Livonia.

Swanson and Wallis on the other hand are quickly-emerging role players. In the Wolves’ win over district-host Lake Orion in the semis on Wednesday, Swanson connected on four 3s for 12 critical points.

“I’m getting the opportunities to shoot the ball more lately and it becomes about having confidence in your ability to knock’em down,” he said.  “My teammates are setting me up with good passes and if I think it’s a good shot, I know I can take it and make it. I’m not sure if I felt like that before recently.”

“Swanson’s coming on strong for us, shooting the ball well and doing a lot of little things within the framework of the offense that are making a difference,” Fife said.

Junior point guard Drew Myers topped Clarkston’s stat sheet on Friday with 15 points and five assists, nailing 11-of-13 from the free-throw line.

Stoney Creek got a team-high 14 points from senior combo guard Charlie Carson and 13 from junior forward Eric Gilgenbach. Carson ends his career as a prepster as the Cougars’ all-time leader in multiple offensive categories (scoring, free throws, 3-point shooting, assists) and will be playing at Kalamazoo College next winter.