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Loyer scores 31 points as Clarkston downs Macomb Dakota, 68-48, in a region semifinal

By: Jeff Dullack, March 13, 2017, 11:00 pm

Grand Blanc – In each of the previous two seasons, Clarkston and Macomb Dakota have met in the Class A regionals as each team would advance to the quarterfinals. Both games were close as Clarkston won in 2015, 63-58, and Dakota won a double-overtime thriller last season, 68-66.

When the teams met on Monday in a regional semifinal at Grand Blanc High, the rubber match proved to be no match.

Clarkston scored the first 10 points of the second quarter and outscored the Cougars 22-9 to take 37-24 halftime lead and the Wolves would cruise to a 68-48 victory to advance to a regional final.

Clarkston (23-1), ranked No. 5, will play Rochester Hills Stoney Creek, which defeated Linden, 53-39, in the second semifinal, on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Grand Blanc.

Coach Dan Fife, in his 35th season at Clarkston, said that after losing in heartbreaking fashion a season ago, said his team was ready for Monday’s game

“They beat us twice last year,” he said. “They dumped us in our own gym and beat us at the buzzer in the last game, so our kids were waiting for this game for a long time.”

Dakota trailed by as 14 in the third quarter, but the Cougars began climbing their way back and eventually cut the deficit down to nine in the early stages of the fourth quarter on a 3-pointer from Brett Droski.

The Wolves responded almost immediately as a Dylan Alderson 3-pointer pushed the Clarkston lead back to 12 and, not long after, point guard Foster Loyer knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers to give Clarkston a 56-48 lead with just over five minutes remaining.

Loyer said that he and his teammates stepped up at the right time throughout the game, which included a 9-0 run that gave Clarkston an 18-point lead.

“It was huge, we made the right plays at the right times,” he said. “There’s the famous quote that big players make big plays and in this case it was just our teammates putting us in the right position to make those plays. Give all the credit to coach Fife and my teammates for putting us in the position to win that game.”

Loyer scored 31 points and Alderson contributed 14.

On a night where very little went right for Dakota, the run of poor luck for the Cougars began on the bus ride to Grand Blanc as the team bus was stuck in traffic for 45 minutes, delaying the start by 25 minutes.

“There’s no excuses, Clarkston played very well tonight,” Dakota coach Paul Tocco said. “We did not come with our A-game, we struggled offensively and they executed on their end. I thought we competed, but we just struggled making shots. The day didn’t go great, but there’s no excuses for it.”

For Dakota (20-4) Jermaine Jackson, Jr., scored 15 points, Jack Ballantyne had 14 points and Thomas Kithier added 12.

Loyer’s 3-pointer just before the first quarter buzzer cut the Dakota lead to 15-13. The Wolves took over after that scoring 17 of the next 21 points. Alderson, Nick Wells and Taylor Currie all made 3-pointers to help Clarkston take a 30-19 lead.

With impeccable timing and poise, Loyer made a 3-pointer just before the end of the first half to give Clarkston a 37-24 lead.

Loyer noted that after losing to Dakota at the buzzer in last year’s regional final, he and his teammates were more than motivated, not only looking to exact revenge, but continue advancing in the tournament.

“That’s what we strive for every day,” he said. “Every day when we come out of practice, we’re taking little steps to go and beat the best teams in the state and tonight we were able to come out and play our brand of basketball and we got the job done.”