• Michigan

No. 5 Canton survives battle of Mr. Basketball finalists, beating Joe Moon and Westland John Glenn to advance to district title game

By: Matthew B. Mowery, February 27, 2019, 9:50 pm

WAYNE — Joe Moon may have won the battle of Mr. Basketball finalists, but B. Artis White and his teammates from No. 5 Canton survived the war.

And, at this point, that’s what it’s all about: Survive and advance.

“Of course. Of course I’m thinking that. You gotta think that,” White said of his team’s survival in a 67-61 battle against Moon and Westland John Glenn in Wednesday’s Division 1 district semifinals. “It was tough, a dogfight. They got a great player in Joe Moon, and Renel Thrasher. Me and Joe Moon happen to be Mr. Basketball finalists, so from the jump, we were just going to go at it.

“But we ended up getting the win in a dogfight.”

The Chiefs (21-1) will face district host Wayne Memorial (17-5) in Friday’s district championship game. The Zebras beat Plymouth (9-12), 55-52, with a layup in the final seconds to survive and advance, as well.

John Glenn (12-9) had intentions of pulling a similar come-from-behind act, after falling behind by 15 points, 55-40, headed to the fourth quarter. The Rockets started the fourth on an 11-0 run, and cut Canton’s lead to four points twice, but the Chiefs weathered the storm.

“It was hard to bounce back. Usually when you fight to get back, you expend so much energy, and then you kind of exhale. And I think that’s what happened. We exhaled, and they took advantage of us again. I thought we had them on the ropes, but … couldn’t get it (the knockout punch). That made it tough,” John Glenn coach Rod Watts said. “Man, it was tough, because I really wanted Joe’s and Renel’s season to end on a better note. Because we really started out good, and then took a couple of losses, and it just … man.”

That twosome accounted for all but three of John Glenn’s points, as Thrasher led all scorers with 29 points, while Moon had 27 to wrap up a brilliant season and career.

“He’s a tough cover. His ability to get to the rim is really, really good — probably second to none around here,” Canton coach Jimmy Reddy said. “He’s a Mr. Basketball finalist, and he’s been one of the better players in our area for four years.”

It’s a career that’s seen White and Moon go head-to-head in a four-year war, meeting twice — and sometimes three times — a season, before realignment and adjustment of the crossovers in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association limited their confrontations to just one.

“I love playing him. It’s always been a competition since ninth grade. We always play them twice — this is actually the first year we haven’t played them twice in a season, because they changed the crossover in the KLAA — but it’s always been a dogfight, playing Joe,” White said, noting that it’s either he or teammate Vinson Sigmon who generally draw the assignment to guard Moon, with the Western Michigan-bound White getting the honors Wednesday.

“It’s fun. It gets my adrenaline going. I know I’ve gotta change my mindset, and actually sit down and lock up.”

Sigmon had 17 points to lead Canton, while Kendall Perkins had 15 before fouling out with 2:49 left. White, who had 14, was on the floor all game long, while his teammates were being shuffled in and out, due to foul trouble, a calming presence.

“He kept us calm, and kept us afloat during the rough time with the fouls, for sure. … It seemed like everybody had two in the first half, and then three in the second half, got to four,” said Reddy, who had two players foul out, and three more with four fouls when the game ended, making it a guessing-game in terms of trying to avoid substituting in a player in foul trouble. “Yes, and my assistant coach Ryan Waidman did an excellent job with that. He helps with subbing all the time. We were in a tough spot tonight, and he did a great job. Credit to him, figuring that out, and piecing it together, because it was tough.”

The Rockets cut the Chiefs’ lead down to four, 55-51, on a pair of Renel free throws, but Sigmon  answered with a layup with 4:15 left — Canton’s first points of the fourth quarter. By the time there were 63 seconds left, the Chiefs had the lead back up to 10 points, and made just enough from the free-throw line (8 of 16 in the fourth) to close out the win.

“We had to fight through the calls, just overcome and move on to the next play. I think down the stretch, our guys showed some toughness, definitely some mental toughness. We’re a pretty veteran group, and I would expect that,” Reddy said. “We survived it, and I think our guys that came off the bench helped us do that. We just have that next-man-in mentality.”