Freshman guards Loyer and Wasilk lead No. 5 Clarkston to win against No. 4 Detroit King
WARREN — Rock steady as they are inexperienced, full-court pressure doesn’t faze Clarkston’s young backcourt of Fletcher Loyer and Keegan Wasilk.
They thrive on it.
The Wolves’ exceptional pair of freshman combo guards have been feasting on full-court traps in recent weeks. On Saturday night at the 13th annual Horatio Williams Foundation MLK Freedom Classic, held at Warren Fitzgerald, Loyer and Wasilk chewed Detroit King’s fast and physical press to the bone.
Propelled by its young-gun duo of guards, No. 5-ranked Clarkston ran away with a 53-39 victory in a contest in which the Wolves wore No. 4 King down with their uncanny composure and execution and extended their win-streak to 10 games.
"We swing the ball to the middle and we attack," said Loyer of facing full-court pressure. "We knew what we were in store for and we knew how to deal with it."
Clarkston (10-2) is the two-time defending Class A state champions. This winter, the Wolves are breaking in a brand new lineup and coach. They haven’t lost since the first week of the season.
Loyer and Wasilk booked 15 points, five assists and three steals apiece Saturday against King (11-2). Wolves’ star junior center Matt Nicholson notched nine points, 13 rebounds and five blocks.
In front 25-20 at the half, Clarkston put King on its heels with a 12-0 run to open the third quarter. King didn’t record its first point of the second half until an Omar Ziegler free throw at the 2:26 mark of the third. Clarkston’s sixth-man, senior guard Desmond Mills-Bradley, beat the horn to end the frame on a baseline line drive for a score that gave the Wolves a 43-23 lead heading into the game’s final stanza.
King rallied in the fourth quarter and got its deficit into single digits late. After the Crusaders’ own fab frosh, Chansey Willis, drilled a 3-pointer with 54 seconds left, King trailed 46-39. Wasilk drained four in a row from the free-throw line, though, and Loyer finished off his night with a steal and dish to Wasilk for an easy lay-up in the closing moments.
“Our freshmen guards are true competitors, they don’t shy away from the moment,” said first-year Clarkston coach Tim Wasilk, Keegan’s uncle. “They’ve got half a season under their belts already, so they know what to expect, teams are going to try and challenge them and they have to be ready. We put together a great third quarter and that was a big difference tonight.”
The elder Wasilk took over the Clarkston program from his mentor and former coach, Dan Fife, who retired back in the fall following 36 years, more than 700 wins and the past two state crowns. Both Keegan Wasilk and Fletcher Loyer’s older brothers (Chase and Foster, respectively) started on last year’s state-title team. Foster Loyer (Michigan State) collected Mr. Basketball honors in 2018.
King entered Saturday’s game 24 hours removed from beating PSL rival Detroit Cass Tech at the buzzer on a Jordan Whitford pull-up jumper. Whitford is one of the top point guards in Metro Detroit. He and Ziegler had nine points each for the Crusaders versus Clarkston. Willis led King by going for 10.
The quick turnaround clearly took its toll on King.
“That’s a tough back-to-back set, last night against a state-title contender in Cass and tonight in the two-time defending state champs,” King coach George Ward said. “We weren’t engaged enough mentally and emotionally and that’s on me as a coach. I needed to have them prepared and I didn’t. Man, I wish we could have given these guys (Clarkston) a better game. We were sleep walking in the third quarter and a team like Clarkston is going to make you pay for those kind of lapses.”