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BOYS BASKETBALL: No. 1 Pershing living dangerously in its tourney run

By: Scott Burnstein, March 15, 2013, 10:00 am

DETROIT –Even the staunchest of hard-rocking Bon Jovi fans might say the state’s No. 1 ranked boys basketball team, undefeated Detroit Pershing has been taking the legendary 1980s hair-metal band’s hit song, “Living on a prayer,” a tad too literally as of late.

The 25-0 Doughboys have won two of their last three state-tournament games at the buzzer.

Playing for a Class A regional championship on Wednesday, Pershing slid past an upset-minded University of Detroit-Jesuit squad, champions of the powerful Catholic League, 62-60, courtesy of star senior point guard Kahlil Felder’s game-winning jumper as time expired.

Felder, signed with Oakland University and one of the finalists for this year’s Mr. Basketball award, finished the tightly-contested title affair with 15 points, seven assists, six rebounds and three steals.

Fans of the Doughboys were hardly unfamiliar to such a last-second fireworks display. Last Friday night in the district finals against PSL rival Detroit Cass Tech they saw virtually the same exact thing, as senior shooting guard Martez Walker’s 15-footer at the horn sent Pershing to a dramatic 78-76 win.

With junior center Justin Tillman (a top college recruit in the state’s Class of 2014, 19 points, 10 rebounds in the regional final) back at full-strength after missing some time during the regular season with an injury, the Doughboys are primed and beaming with confidence.

The sideline contingent is quite formidable in its own right.

First-year Pershing head coach, Wydell Henry and his staff have yet to lose a game on the bench since taking the reins from A.C. Canada back in the fall.

Henry is trying to navigate the Doughboys to the program’s sixth overall state championship on the boys hardwood and first-ever perfect season in the storied history of Pershing hoops, dating back to the days of future pros like Spencer Haywood and Ralph Simpson.

Two more wins and Henry and his squad will punch the school’s tenth ticket into the state finals.

However, first they’ll have to go through No. 2 in the state Romulus in the quarterfinals, a game dubbed by some as the de-facto state title contest, set to be played at Calihan Hall down on the campus of the University of Detroit-Mercy Tuesday night.

Headlined by the sterling backcourt of University of Missouri-bound point guard Wes Clark and shooting guard, E.C. Matthews, a University of Rhode Island-signee, Romulus is 24-1, its only loss coming to Pershing back in December in a rematch of last season’s quarterfinals, a 67-62 Romulus win.

The last time Pershing appeared in the state championship game was in 2009 when current Michigan State standouts Keith Appling and Derrick Nix led the Doughboys to the crown.