• Michigan

Southfield Christian gears up for state tournament, hands River Rouge its first loss, 68-45

By: Tom Markowski, February 16, 2018, 9:44 pm

Southfield – Inconsistencies have plagued the top-ranked team in Class D for much of the season.

Southfield Christian was soundly defeated by West Bloomfield and the Eagles struggled to get past a team (Sterling Heights Parkway Christian) they should have no difficulty defeating.

Senior Bryce Washington said that’s all in the past. He said, specifically, I was the loss at West Bloomfield that lit a fire under him and his teammates.

If Friday’s home game against River Rouge, the top-ranked team in Class B, was any indication Christian has put their troubles behind them and, with the state tournament set to start in just over two weeks that spells bad news for the rest of the teams in Class D.

Christian held River Rouge to four field goals in the last 20:22 and whipped the Panthers, 68-45, before a standing-room-only crowd.

Christian (15-3) scored the final 17 points of the first half to take a 37-23 lead.

When Bralin Toney made his third 3-pointer of the game to bring River Rouge to within 51-39 with 2:23 left in the third quarter it looked like the Panthers were about to make a move. Instead, it was false hopes. Caleb Hunter scored two baskets over the next minute increasing the Eagles’ lead to 55-39 and River Rouge was done. The Panthers never scored another basket.

“We took a tough loss to West Bloomfield,” Washington said. “We just had to play harder and play with more patience.

“This is just the beginning for us. We’re getting better. Defense is my greatest ability. I’m a good offensive player, too, but whenever we play together we play better. It’s not about who gets it going. We’re just getting it going. We’re not losing any more games.”

Christian could be playing with a chip on its shoulder when the tournament starts. The Eagles lost in the semifinals last season to eventual champion Powers North Central.

River Rouge (16-1) has played outstanding defense this season. It is the Panthers’ defensive pressure that has defined their season to this point. Defense is a point of emphasis for any team coached by Mark White. When he coached the talented Detroit Renaissance teams in the mid-2000s defense was a priority.

On this night Christian stole one out of White’s playbook. The Eagles outplayed River Rouge defensively and, as a result, Christian took advantage of the Panthers’ defensive lapses. Hunter made three 3-pointers and had 17 points. Harlond Beverly, a highly-recruited point guard, had 14 points and Washington had a quiet 19 points and seven rebounds.

Christian was efficient from the field as the Eagles were 15-of-24 (62.5 percent) in the field half, 28-of-48 (58.3 percent) for the game.

Toney had 12 points and Nigel Colvin added 11 points and six rebounds.

“It was our best game,” Christian coach Josh Baker said. “It was Rouge at our place. When Mark was at Renaissance (Baker was an assistant at Romulus at the time), I picked his brain. I think he’s the best in the state. I took away a lot from him.

“We had 22 assists tonight. We moved the ball. I knew we had to be more patient and I knew we had to fight for our shots.

“Consistency? That’s what we’re fighting for.”