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BOYS BASKETBALL: On-the-rise Bloomfield Hills cruising in 2014, bests Clarkston in convincing fashion

By: Scott Burnstein, January 29, 2014, 8:00 am

BLOOMFIELD HILLS – The Bloomfield Hills Black Hawks are the toast of the Oakland County prep boys basketball world.

Catching fire since Christmas, Bloomfield Hills is picking up steam like a runaway locomotive.

The Black Hawks knocked off mighty Clarkston 74-62 Tuesday night before a jam-packed home crowd, forcing a first-place tie in the OAA Red with the victory and making history in the process.

Prior to Tuesday, no high school boys hoops squad from the city of Bloomfield Hills had ever beaten perennial state-power Clarkston, a year-in-year-out Oakland County darling and the seven-time defending champions of the Red Division.

“Beating Clarkston is a big deal, a big step for this program,” Black Hawks head coach Duane Graves, said.

Bloomfield Hills (10-1) hasn’t lost in a month in a half.

Graves and his staff have been unfazed by being saddled with the added responsibility of blending former separate city teams and arch-rivals Andover and Lahser into one cohesive group this winter.

Last year, while Graves was coaching Lahser, his Knights played tough with Clarkston, but eventually lost.

Many players off Graves’ Lahser club that repeated as district and OAA league champs last winter are on this season’s Bloomfield Hills team.

Senior combo guard Armand Cartwright led all scorers Tuesday with 24 points to go along with his five assists and three steals.

Fellow seniors Khalil Gracey and Yante Maten proved just as destructive to the veteran Clarkston defense. Gracey, the Black Hawks’ ultra-smooth small forward scored 19 points and grabbed eight rebounds, and Maten, possibly the best fella in the whole state, posted his customary double-double of 12 points and 16 boards.

Both Gracey and Maten threw down rim-rattling slam dunks.

The trio is each a multiple-year all-league selection and has flourished against better competition this year, going against more formidable non-league opponents and shining bright so far in the squad’s new home in the Red.

As sophomores, Cartwright, Gracey and Maten led Lahser to an OAA Gold crown. Then as sophomores last winter, they took Lahser to an OAA Blue title and a trip into the Class A “Sweet 16”, losing to current Kentucky star James Young and Rochester in the regional finals.

“We’re finding a real comfort zone right now, getting stronger every game out,” Cartwright said.

His dish to Gracey for a basket in the closing seconds of the first half gave Bloomfield Hills a 33-22 advantage heading into the locker rooms for the break.

After Clarkston made a push and got to within three points behind early in the fourth quarter, 45-42, courtesy of a Tabin Throgmorton three-point play at the 6:14 mark, Cartwright buried a triple to stem the Wolves’ tide and then fed Gracey for an emphatic baseline slam. Cartwright’s two free throws provided the Black Hawks a 58-48 lead with three and a half to play.

Another Gracey bucket sandwiched in between a pair of "dagger" 3-pointers delivered off the bench from junior sharpshooter Cam Dalton, his second and third of the quarter, made it 70-53 with a minute left and began filtering out the overflowing grandstand before the final buzzer.

Gracey knows how important getting over the hump that was defeating Clarkston for him and his team.

“This is a signature win, the kind you need for your resume,” he said. “We went out there and got it done.”

Throgmorton, a transfer from Walled Lake Northern who became eligible last week, led Clarkston (9-2) in the score sheet with 15 points.

Defensively, Bloomfield Hills did an excellent job containing Clarkston star sniper Nick Owens via an oppressive match-up zone, limiting the 20-point a night off-guard to 12 points on 4-of-14 shooting from the field.

Longtime Clarkston head coach Dan Fife was blunt following the defeat.

"They kicked our butts, that pretty much sums it all up," he said