Powers North Central jumps out early, cruises past Fulton and into first Class D Final since 1984
East Lansing – Three years ago, when Powers North Central advanced to the Breslin Center the Jets may not have felt as comfortable as they wanted to as they fell to Tri-Unity Christian in the Class D Finals.
But when the Jets made their second Breslin Center in three years on Thursday night, they appeared to feel right at home.
North Central jumped out to an early lead and never surrendered it as North Central would coast to a convincing 71-46 win over Fulton in the Class D semifinals.
North Central coach Adam Mercier said that his team’s primary focus after playing somewhat timid two years ago at the Breslin Center, was to play aggressive when it made its return on Thursday night.
“Two years ago, when we came down here, we were a little awe-struck and we played a little tentative,” he said. “That was one of our main focuses when we drove down here on Tuesday to Gaylord. We talked about being the aggressor and not coming out soft and we wanted to take some shots, get the ball in the paint and see what happens.”
With the win, North Central now advances to the Class D Finals, where it will face Morenci on Saturday back at the Breslin Center.
North Central opened up the game, scoring each of the first 10 points as the Jets would run out to a more than comfortable 21-4 lead after one quarter behind five points from Rob Granquist Jr.
Mercier said that outside of a few players on his team, neither team had any experience playing in the semifinals, so he knew that a fast start would be key for either team.
“There’s not much experience on either team,” he said. “Not many of our guys have seen this stage and Fulton was in that same boat. So whoever could throw that first punch early would have a slight advantage, get the crowd on their side early and start playing a little loose and we were able to get that first punch and it was a big punch.”
North Central would later walk into halftime with a lopsided 43-17 lead after outscoring Fulton 22-13 in the second quarter.
Fulton coach Todd Walden said that he felt his team didn’t drive to the basket as much as he wanted them to early on, which was a key to its slow start on Thursday.
“I thought we settled on a lot of shots early,” he said. “We talked about coming in and attacking the basket a little bit and I don’t think we did a good job of that at all in the first half.”
Fulton was led by 15 points from Colton Antes.
Sophomore Jason Whitens very nearly recorded a triple-double in just three quarters of action to help lead the Jets as he registered 16 points, nine rebounds and nine assists on the night.
Whitens credited the balanced effort from the rest of his teammates for getting him going as the game went on.
“We expect to come out fast and physical every game like coach says,” he said. “So we like to build on that as we start a game and finish a game. With Robby (Granquist) and Caleb (Martin) and Morgan (Cox) and everyone really stepping up and playing phenomenal, it really does get me going.”
Granquist added in 14 points and Morgan Cox chipped in with 12 more points for the Jets, who saw nine players score on Thursday.
On Saturday, North Central will take aim at its first state title since 1984.