Detroit Western outlasts WL Central, extends win streak to 31 games
Harper Woods – During its 30 game winning streak, which includes a Class A state championship last season, Detroit Western has had its fair share of close games.
And as the Cowboys looked to close out 2015 with an unblemished record, Western had one final test against Walled Lake Central on Wednesday night.
With the help of late free throws and offensive rebounding, the Cowboys held off Central for a 52-48 win at the 21st annual Motor City Roundball Classic at Chandler Park high school.
Western coach Derrick McDowell said that while he was pleased his team was able to come out with the win, he would have liked to have seen his team close out the game better, after holding a six point lead midway through the quarter.
“The mentality was to not let it get to that point,” he said. “When we got the six point lead, it shouldn’t have gotten to that point.”
Heading into the fourth quarter with just a one point lead, Western watched its lead grow to six near the midway point of the quarter after a Josh Long dunk gave the Cowboys a 46-40 lead.
But Central would bounce back to take a late lead with less than 30 seconds left to play when senior Walter Kelser would score on a layup while being fouled to give the Vikings their first lead since early in the first quarter, 48-46.
But with 15 seconds left to play, Western’s Brailen Neely, committed to Oakland, split a pair of free throws, but grabbed the offensive rebound on his miss and recorded the putback to give the Cowboys a 49-48 lead.
“It was really important,” Neely said of the play to give his team the lead back. “Probably the biggest play of the game, just the right bounce, the right tip, it fell in my hands and I laid it up, but it was because of all of the hard work that we did before.”
Western would then seal the win as time ran out as a free throw from Kyree Boynton and a basket from Long sealed the win with less than five seconds remaining.
In the first half, Neely scored 14 first quarter points to help the Cowboys jump out to an early 18-12 lead after the first quarter. Neely connected all four of his first quarter 3-point attempts.
“The last couple of practices and game, coach has told me that pretty much I was going to be in charge on the floor this game, calling all of the sets,” Neely said. “So the sets I was calling, we were executing, my teammates were getting me the ball, and I got hot.”
Neely scored 18 of his game-high 22 points in the first half.
McDowell said that he feels for his team to be successful, other players on the team will need to step up to handle the scoring, allowing Neely, who played all 32 minutes on Wednesday, to conserve his energy.
“We’re not going to win with Brailen scoring a lot of points,” he said. “Because he’s going to burn himself like he burnt himself in the first half and he exerted so much energy getting those 14.”
Central was led by 17 points from Kelser.