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Long, tall Detroit Catholic Central pulls away from Wayne Memorial for regional win

By: Matthew B. Mowery, March 6, 2019, 12:45 am

YPSILANTI — Length is invaluable on the basketball court.

When you average 6-foot-6 across the starting lineup, and your shortest starter is 6-3, you’re going to have an advantage on most teams you face.

Novi Detroit Catholic Central used every inch of that height advantage to the utmost in Tuesday’s Division 1 regional semifinal game against a smaller, quicker Wayne Memorial, using the reach to control the glass, and the length to make it hard for the Zebras to get inside.

Catholic Central (16-7) steadily pulled away from the Zebras (18-6) in the second half, winning 73-51 to earn a spot in Thursday’s regional final against tournament host Ypsilanti Lincoln (19-4).

“We have one of the tallest teams in the state, consistently, and I feel like that plays a big part of our offense. We like to get the ball in side, and on defense, it’s harder against teams that are quicker, they can’t penetrate and get in the lane. We use our length to our advantage,” said 6-foot-7 Davis Lukomski, who finished with a game-high 24 points, explaining how the Shamrocks were able to contain Wayne’s high-scoring guard, Isaiah Lewis.

“With being a longer defender, we have enough length to be able to sag off him, so he doesn’t use his quickness to get by you, and still have enough length to challenge his jump shots.”

Lewis finished with 10 points, while backcourt mate Kenneth Bowie had a team-high 14.

“He’s one of the best players in their league, and he’s one of the toughest covers we’ve seen all year. I’ve seen him on film five times. He’s a special player. Our length helped, but when he didn’t have it, we made him work to get open, and eventually, he was going to tire out,” CC coach Brandon Sinawi said of Lewis. “We’re big, and tonight we played like it. I thought we controlled tempo early and it worked. We just kept pressing and pressing and pressing at the hoop. If they were going to take chances — and it worked for them at times — but over the course of the game, we were able to take care of business.”

Even with a trio of players listed at 6-6, the Zebras couldn’t match up with the Shamrocks’ height. In addition to Lumkowski, they have Justin Rukat at 6-8, Brendan Downs at 6-7 andMike Harding at 6-5, while point guard Jacob Woebkenberg checks in a 6-3.

That enabled Catholic Central to pound it inside, and clean up on the boards on both ends,

“We talked about it yesterday. We actually had a 30-minute rebounding discussion. We talked about it pregame, about how important it was to crash the glass, not only on the offensive end, but on the defensive end. Keep them off any second-chance opportunities,” Sinawi said. “Our kids responded. They took the game plan, and they executed, and did it to perfection tonight.”

Catholic Central started out on a 7-0 spurt, and led 18-5 after a quarter, and 31-21 at the half.

Wayne got itself back into the game in the middle of the second quarter, using their smaller, quicker guards to create havoc, and turning those turnovers into points.

“We’ve been preaching it all year — we’ve been pressured all year. Our backcourt is getting better as the season’s gone on. I think earlier in the year, we struggled. We’ve been really practicing making sure that our guys are in the right spots, coming to passes, squaring, looking middle,” Sinawi said. “We knew they were going to come out and take risks, and we were able to cash in on the ones where they didn’t grab us.”

The Zebras used a 10-0 run to cut the lead back to five, but Keegan Koehler hit a pair of 3-pointers in the quarter to stem the tide, and turn momentum back in the other direction.

“It stretched it out. He does so many little things for us. He did a great job on No. 0 (Lewis) tonight. Just made him uncomfortable. And then for him to come out and knock those down when it was kind of panic mode for us — it definitely kept the pace for us, and were able to extend it back to a 10- or 12-point lead. They got it to seven, then he hit it to get back to 10 — that was huge,” Sinawi said. “We’re not the greatest 3-point shooting team, by any stretch, but we’ve got guys that can hit them — if they’re going to leave them open, our inside-out guys are going to knock them down. It’s a nice complement; when everybody’s looking inside, we can stretch the floor a little bit, open up space and then attack the basket later.”

The Shamrocks led 48-35 headed to the fourth, and got the lead up past 20 less than three minutes into the final period, when Lukomski — who had 13 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter — hit two free throws from a personal foul, and added two more technical foul free throws.

Catholic Central had balanced scoring, with Downs adding 15 and Rukat and Woebkenberg nine each.