Romulus uses big second half to pick up win over rival Belleville in playoff opener
Westland – As if Romulus needed any more motivation on Monday night as the Eagles opened up the postseason, they were also facing rival Belleville.
Romulus trailed for much of the second quarter and trailed 30-29 at halftime. The Eagles broke out in the second half, outscoring Belleville 37-17 as they cruised to a 66-47 victory in a Class A district at Westland John Glenn.
“The biggest thing with us is playing consistent,” Romulus coach Jerrett Smith said. “This game is 32 minutes and at this point in the year, you have to care about every minute that you play. So right now, it’s just a blessing to get the win.”
Romulus now advances to the district semifinal where it will face Taylor Kennedy on Wednesday at 5 p.m. at John Glenn.
Leading the way for Romulus was Jaylin Walker who finished with 23 points. Walker, who signed with Kent State, made 10-of-11 field goal tries.
With Romulus looking to pull away to start the fourth quarter, already leading 46-37, Walker started off the frame with a quick basket, followed by a deep 3-pointer to push the Eagle’s lead to 51-37.
Smith said that the first half was difficult to watch his team play, but added that there wasn’t any excitement watching the Eagles turn it around in the second half, but rather he was just relieved to see his team get back to playing its brand of basketball.
“The first half was very frustrating, watching our guys walk the ball up the court and turn the ball over,” he said. “But in the second half, that was the team I’m used to watching, so for me it’s not as much of excitement as it is ‘here we go, now we’re playing our style of ball’.”
Walker then put the game away as he threw down a highlight reel alley-oop from Rio Washington to push the lead to 15, 54-39, with 4:22 left to play in the fourth quarter.
“We picked it up in the second half because we didn’t want to go home,” said Walker. “So we just talked about not losing at halftime.”
Even Walker’s coach was impressed with Walker’s dunk.
“I didn’t think that pass was catchable, honestly,” said Smith. “So when I turned around, like I knew it, but there’s not many people that can climb the elevator like that to go and get that ball and it just shows you how athletic that kid is.”
Early in the first half, Belleville lost the services of center Arlington Hambright, when he grabbed Walker from behind and pushed the Romulus senior less than three minutes into the game, drawing a flagrant foul, an automatic ejection in high school basketball.
Walker said he wasn’t surprised at the sequence of events that took place, considering he claimed it had happened the last time the two teams met.
“No, because last game he had done it,” he said. “And last game it was worse, they just didn’t call a flagrant foul.”
Belleville would eventually grow its lead to 28-21 towards the midway point of the second quarter, but Romulus would finish the quarter on an 8-2 run, capped off by a D’Angelo Hansboro 3-pointer to trim the deficit down to 30-29 at halftime.
In the third quarter, Romulus picked up right where it left off as the Eagles went on an 11-2 run to start the frame, behind five points from Hansboro to jump out to a 40-32 lead as Romulus would never look back.