New Haven shuts down Ludington in the fourth quarter to claim Class B title
East Lansing – While New Haven has been one of the top scoring teams in the state of Michigan this season, the Rockets have prided themselves on their defensive play all year.
And when New Haven found itself struggling offensively in Saturday night’s Class B Final against Ludington, the Rockets defensive pressure shined down the stretch.
Holding just a 31-30 lead after three quarters, New Haven’s defense limited Ludington to just six points on 2-of-15 shooting in the final quarter as the Rockets would pull away and hold on to earn their first title in school history, 45-36.
New Haven coach Tedaro France said that he believes his team’s conditioning, along with its defensive play in the fourth quarter is what made the difference for the Rockets on Saturday.
“We take pride too in being in great shape,” he said. “The fourth quarter, when it comes, we’re just now getting going, we can defend because we run miles before practice and then we come in and defend the whole day. When teams get tired, that’s when we want to kick it into that extra gear because we kind of up the tempo then, we say let’s go full-court man-to-man, let’s press, let’s beat them up some because they’re tired. That won us the game, our defensive pressure late in the game.”
New Haven’s 45 points was its lowest output of the season, as the Rockets averaged nearly 80 points per contest this winter.
New Haven (27-1) would score the first 12 points of the fourth quarter as Eric Williams Jr. and Romeo Weems would each account for four points to give the Rockets a 43-30 lead.
Ludington’s first basket of the fourth quarter came with just 1:28 left to play on a 3-pointer from Calvin Hackert that cut New Haven’s lead to 43-33 and Hackert would connect for another triple later in the corner to cut the deficit down to eight, but the Orioles wouldn’t be able to draw any closer.
Along with his team’s defensive pressure in the fourth quarter, France also said he was pleased with his team taking better care of the ball down the stretch and added that it also made defensive rebounding a point of emphasis as well.
“I think the defensive intensity picked up some and we didn’t do a good job of taking the ball the whole game either and that was a big concern,” he said. “They actually got a lot of second chance shots and I’m a big guy of (believing) we can’t give teams two or three shots, we went to sending five guys to the defensive boards and we wanted to increase our defensive intensity.”
Weems finished with a game-high 19 points and 10 rebounds to lead New Haven, while Williams finished with 14 points and seven rebounds.
Ludington (25-3) head coach Thad Shank said that while he felt his team had good looks in the fourth quarter, he felt that New Haven’s length played a factor in his team’s struggles from the field.
“I thought we got great shots,” he said. “We got the ball to the rim, we got open looks at the 3-point line, we got great shots. I attribute it to a state champion team over there who one through five, those guys out there on the floor make it extremely difficult and they alter things out there on the floor. When you got a guy who’s playing with his elbow above the rim flying at you, it’s going to alter your shots a little bit. Some nights in basketball, you don’t make shots, even if you’re good shooters and I think it was a combination of both, probably.”
Hackert finished with 16 points to lead Ludington, while Sam LaDuke contributed 10 points in the loss.
In the first half, Ludington jumped out to a 15-7 lead in the second quarter behind four straight points from LaDuke, but New Haven came storming back, finishing the first half on a 16-4 run led by seven points from Weems, including a putback dunk late in the first half, to give the Rockets a 23-19 lead going into halftime.
Weems said that while it took his team a little while to find its comfort zone on Saturday, he felt that the run to finish the second quarter, which began on a 3-pointer from the sophomore, was a big swing in momentum for the Rockets.
“We started out and nobody was hitting shots, I looked at ‘E’ (Eric Williams) and I was like he’s not in it yet, so I hit the shot, and I had to hit it to let him know I got his back,” he said. “Then he just came up and we started hitting shots and we started going on runs and they started going on runs. But in the second half, we just took off, started playing hard, started pressuring them and got them out of their comfort zone.”