The regional round of the MHSAA tournament is where East Lansing’s state title run ended last year. The Trojans are determined not to let that happen again.
No. 2-ranked East Lansing defeated Battle Creek Central, 74-50, in this Class A regional semifinal in boys basketball action at Gull Lake on Monday.
The semifinal was the first hurdle in this regional for the Trojans, now East Lansing wants to take care of business in the regional final. East Lansing stays undefeated at 24-0 and will face Kalamazoo Central in the regional final on Wednesday.
“We were undefeated and lost in the regional final last year. We are undefeated now and headed to the regional final again. And we have some unfinished business as a team to take care of on Wednesday,” East Lansing coach Steve Finamore said.
It was a repeat of last year’s regional when East Lansing ended Battle Creek Central’s season.
The Trojans had trouble putting away Battle Creek Central early. East Lansing was up 28-22 with 2:40 left in the half, looking to stretch its lead. However, the Bearcats closed the second quarter with a flurry and a late layup by Denzell Banks cut the Trojan lead to 33-32 at intermission.
East Lansing’s Brandon Johns, considered one of the top juniors in the state, showed it with 11 points, six rebounds and three blocks in the first half.
“The games get tougher and tougher the further you go in the tournament and we know that and we knew it was going to be a tough game,” Finamore said. “But our guys never give up and we have one of the best players in the state of Michigan, so I always feel good about our chances.”
The Trojans took over in the second half. East Lansing opened the third quarter with back-to-back 3-pointers, the second by Westin Myles to give the Trojans a 39-33 lead. Deandre Robinson added a short jumper soon after and East Lansing was up 43-35 with 5:42 left in the quarter.
“In the first half we wanted to keep a lid on things, keep it close and we did. But in the second half it got away from us,” Battle Creek Central coach Durant Crum said. “In the second half we couldn’t knock down any shots and they knocked down just about every one they took.
“Once they got the lead, it kinda snowballed from there and our kids got a little frazzled.”
The quarter ended with a dunk by Johns, followed by a technical foul out of frustration by Battle Creek Central. The two free throws by Myles were followed by a layup by Johns on the ball out of bounds and by then East Lansing had a commanding 53-37 lead to start the fourth quarter.
Leading East Lansing was Johns with 23 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks as Myles added 18 points, including four 3-pointers.
Battle Creek Central ends the year at 19-4 as Jahmiel Wade led the way for the Bearcats with 11 points. Crum talked about the accomplishments of his team, winning back-to-back district titles.
“Not too many teams can say they won a district, gone to a regional and we have done that two years in a row now,” Crum said. “So these seniors should be proud of what they accomplished.”