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Detroit U-D Jesuit rolls past Dakota, advances to first Class A Final

By: Jeff Dullack, March 25, 2016, 2:59 pm

(PHOTO CREDIT: Dave Donoher)


East Lansing – The third time was the charm for Detroit U-D Jesuit.

After advancing to the Class A state semifinals without advancing to the championship game in the previous two years, U-D was a team on a mission when it returned to the Breslin Center for a third straight year on Friday afternoon.

U-D coach Pat Donnelly said that throughout the season his team has been focused on getting past the semifinal game and added that after his team’s quarterfinal win over Ypsilanti, he could tell the Cubs weren’t content with making another trip to the semifinals.

“We did discuss the last two years and the feeling that we had leaving here on Friday afternoon, we talked about that throughout the season,” he said. “That allowed us to win the quarterfinal and be very focused walking off the floor, understanding that these guys were about business.

“We weren’t hooting and hollering after the quarterfinal saying ‘Yeah, we’re going back to the Breslin.’ There was a laser focus by these guys and I appreciated that, it was very businesslike and I think you saw the result of that today.”

The Cubs jumped out to an early lead and never looked back on their way to picking up a 72-51 win over Macomb Dakota, as U-D advanced to the Class A Final for the first time in school history.

In the Class A Final, U-D Jesuit (27-0) will face North Farmington, who beat Lansing Everett in the second semifinal of the day.

Friday’s highly anticipated game between the No. 1 ranked team (U-D) and the No. 2 ranked team (Dakota) was never close as the top-ranked Cubs turned a 7-6 lead midway through the first quarter into a 25-9 advantage in the early stages of the second, behind an 18-3 run, led by nine points from Michigan State signee Cassius Winston.

Winston, who played on each of the previous two teams that saw their seasons end in the semifinals, said that to finally advance to the state finals is something that means a great deal to himself and his teammates.

“It means the world to finally get over that hump,” he said. “We came in here for two years expecting to win it and we came up short, now we made it past that hump and made it to Saturday.”

Dakota (26-1) managed to cut the deficit down to 33-23 early in the third quarter, after four quick points from Thomas Kithier and a basket from Steven Marshall.

Dakota was led by 13 points from both Steven Marshall and Tavin Allison. Jermaine Jackson Jr., who scored each of Dakota’s first six points finished with 12 points and Kithier also finished with 12.

“We’re disappointed in the result, but we’re not disappointed in the season,” Dakota coach Paul Tocco said. “We played a very good basketball team tonight and we’re disappointed that we didn’t come out with our best offense, we didn’t score the basketball like we normally did, but a lot has to do with U-D and their defense. Obviously we’re disappointed, but we’re very proud of the season that we had.”

But U-D proved to be too much for the Cougars, opening a 49-31 lead by the end of the third quarter behind eight points from Winston in the final five minutes.

Winston finished with a game-high 27 points and 12 assists to lead U-D, while Greg Eboigbodin finished with 13 points and 18 rebounds and Ike Eke also contributed nine points and eight rebounds in the win for the Cubs.

Eboigbodin was a difference maker all game for the Cubs as he made it difficult for Dakota to score in the post throughout the game and 16 of his 18 rebounds were on the defensive glass, taking away second chance opportunities for the Cougars.

Donnelly credited his junior forward for his efforts both defensively and rebounding on Friday.

“I thought he was phenomenal on the class,” Donnelly said. “I thought we did a good job defensively contesting their shots and I thought we did an even better job of eliminating offensive rebounding opportunities for them and allowing them to score on second chance points.”

Eboigbodin later put the exclamation mark on the win for the Cubs with three fourth quarter dunks, the last gave his team a 61-40 lead.