Western defeats U-D 55-46 in Class A semifinals despite missing 17 free throws
East Lansing – Heading into the Class A semifinals, Detroit Western coach Derrick McDowell said he wanted his team to prevent U-D Jesuit star point guard Cassius Winston from making plays driving to the lane.
On Friday afternoon, that’s just what the Cowboys were able to do.
Winston did score 21 points but it wasn’t enough as Western shut down U-D’s other players and outlasted the Cubs, 55-46, on Friday at the Breslin Center.
“The main thing was to clog the lane and keep Winston out of the lane,” McDowell said. “If he was going to get assists, then he was going to get them off of jump shots. Not getting in the lane and scoring, not getting in the lane and creating fouls, and not getting in to drop off passes for dunks for their big guys.”
Western (25-0), ranked No. 1 all season, will face Saginaw Arthur Hill (24-3), which topped Lansing Everett, 73-61, in the first semifinal on Friday. The title game is at noon on Saturday.
Western took a 43-37 after a Brailen Neely basket, but U-D responded as Winston made a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to just three with 3:51 left to play.
Winston said that after making his 3-pointer he felt no different than he did for the entire game, and thought his team had a chance to come out with the win.
“They always had the lead,” said Winston. “But I always thought that we had a shot to win the game.”
After Western pushed its lead back to two possessions on a bucket from Aaron Austin, the game became a battle of free throws as the Cowboys watched their lead swell to 50-42 on three made free throws and another score from Neely.
Neely finished with 16 points to lead Western.
While Western shot just 11-for-28 from the free throw line, it turned out to be just good enough to allow the Cowboys to survive and advance past U-D.
“We got lucky today,” said McDowell. “You’re not going to win many games when you miss 17 free throws. Elementary kids aren’t going to miss 17 free throws out of 28, I just thought that was bad.”
U-D was almost as bad. The Cubs shot just 19-of-32 on its free throws for the game.
U-D Jesuit trailed by as many as 10 in the first half, 21-11, after a pair of free throws by way of Jaye Patrick, but then trimmed the deficit to just 21-19 with an 8-0 run capped by a basket from Winston and a free throw from Ike Eke.
“Defensively, I thought we played a pretty good game,” said U-D coach Pat Donnelly. “Even with as poorly as we shot the ball, with a minute and a half left, we were only down four. We talk about our composure and when our shot’s not falling, I thought we played pretty composed.”
Western would go into halftime with a 25-20 lead after a late basket from Julius Palmer.
In the second half, Western pushed its lead to eight points as Neely accounted for another basket, but U-D would close the gap to just four late in the third quarter after back-to-back buckets from Elijah Collins and Matt Shearer.