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Tyson Acuff continues padding Mr. Basketball resume, dropping 32 to lead Cass Tech to 3rd city title in 4 years

By: MATTHEW B. MOWERY, February 14, 2020, 9:36 pm

DETROIT — This is what in the awards world they call “body of work.” 

And Tyson Acuff’s body of work is looking — as the kids say — relatively swole, at this point.

After scoring 17 against a box-and-one in Thursday’s semifinals one night earlier, the Cass Tech star closed out the Detroit Public School League tournament with a 32-point effort in a 66-41 blowout of Douglass, giving him three city titles in his four-year starting career.

“Tyson being Tyson. I don’t want to be a broken record, but when you perform on this stage, it’s real gratifying,” Cass Tech coach Steven Hall said. 

“It’s starting to get redundant, with Tyson’s performances. The thing about playing in the Public School League is that it’s a built-in stage. All you have to do is perform on it. It’s not about the non-league games, it’s this built-in stage. He’s won three PSL city championships in his four years … I don’t know how many people have done that, but it’s pretty unique company. It speaks for itself. I don’t have to do a whole lot of campaigning. People just can’t say that. You know how strongly I feel about him, but when you’re performing like that, it speaks for itself.” 

The Technicians won the city title in 2017 and again in 2019, before defending that title Friday.

Earlier in the week, though, it looked like they might not have a chance to defend it on the floor, when they were initially disqualified from their semifinal game for apparently using an ineligible player in the quarterfinals, a ruling that was eventually overturned.

“This is where we envisioned being. We didn’t do anything wrong to not be here. I’ve got a hard-working group of kids. They’ve got phenomenal academic achievements. … Right now, we’ve got a program, and it looks like a machine right now,” Hall said. “Heavy is the head that wears the crown. It comes with the territory. The guys locked in, and when we get inside the rectangle, we say ‘We’re all that we’ve got.’ I think that right now, we’ve got some momentum going.”

Acuff hit five 3-pointers in the game, but at one point, though, when Douglass went on a run, he was struggling as badly as his teammates, missing a handful shots in a row — a rarity for a shooter as accurate as he usually is.

“Yeah, yeah. I was a little off tonight, sorry. … Just a little bit,” he said with a grin. “I was working on shooting all day, all day in school. Chemistry, and not being selfish, though. That was a big part of the game.”

It was a back-and-forth game through the first half, but the Technicians (17-1) continued to stifle the open-court opportunities for Douglass (15-4), holding the Hurricanes to just seven and nine points in the third and fourth quarters, respectively.

“We know that we can’t help them score in transition — they like to hit big shots in transition, 3s, so we had to get it back before they get in transition,” Acuff said.
Cass jumped out to a 7-0 lead, but Douglass responded with a 15-0 run to lead 17-12 midway through the second quarter. The Technicians came right back with a 12-0 run, and led 28-23 at the half.

“It’s going to be a game full of runs. We know that Frederick Douglass is a high-scoring offense. They want to get out and score. I noticed that the games that they lost, they were low-scoring games,” Hall said. “When you let them run free, they’ve got too many guns, and too many weapons. The fact that we were able to control them, means that the game plan was executed well.”

Acuff scored 10 points in the third quarter, as Cass outscored Douglass, 18-7, to take a 16-point lead, 46-30, into the fourth quarter. His behind-the-back dribble approach, leading up to an open-court layup, gave Cass a 20-point margin, 46-26, with 1:40 left in the third.

Other than a few pull-up jumpers by Douglass star Pierre Brooks II, the Cass defensive zone didn’t allow for many easy opportunities for the Hurricanes.

“It’s a zone with man-to-man principles, and it’s just demoralizing. The guys have bought in, and it’s a system now. Guys are coming in and buying in, and right now — it’s turning into a machine,” Hall said. “We had four starters graduate last year. In the offseason, prior to summer league, we didn’t even have enough guys to do all the plays. Tyson’s whole role changed, and Kyle (LeGreair) came of age, Isaiah (Sanders) has been rock-solid. Rylan Bowens is a first-year starter, Kalen King’s a first-year starter, and I’ve got several freshmen playing major minutes. It’s just been phenomenal. To be standing here right now, after having lost nine seniors and four starters, it’s amazing. It really is. … 

“The issue at Cass Tech is to find guys that are willing to wait their turn. I’ve had to replace four starters, two years in a row now. When you have guys that stay the course, this is the fruit of your labor.”

Sanders added 12 points for Cass Tech, while Bowens had 11.

Brooks led the Hurricanes with 24. 

Cass Tech will take on the Catholic League champion in Operation Friendship on March 5, while Douglass will face the CHSL runner-up.