Mick McCabe: De La Salle's Turner wins battle of two of state's best juniors

Mick McCabe: De La Salle's Turner wins battle of two of state's best juniors


Mick McCabe: De La Salle's Turner wins battle of two of state's best juniors


Check the calendar, because it seemed like March 14 in the Warren De La Salle gym Friday night, not December 14.

The placed was packed as De La Salle and Grand Rapids Christian battled through two overtimes before the Pilots pulled out a wild 77-76 victory that could have passed for a Class A semifinal or final tournament game.

There were so many story lines it was ridiculous: La Salle’s A.J. Turner scored a career-high 35 points against Christian star Drake Harris.

* MORE: Friday’s basketball scores

“I was looking at the rankings, and I seen him No. 1,” Turner said. “I feel like as a player, personally, I’m better than him. I figure I had to come out tonight and prove I’m the best junior in the state.”

Harris is the top junior in the state — in football and basketball — and he finished with 19 points before fouling out late in the second overtime. He is ridiculously unselfish and soon will figure out he is going to have to start looking for his shot more regularly.

“We knew this was going to be a tough game, and we knew De La Salle had a great team,” said Harris, who has committed to Michigan State. “I know A.J. is good from playing him in AAU, and he played great tonight.”

Then there is the entire football aspect to the game. Christian (1-3) won the Division 3 state title, and first-year coach Steve Majerle is still making introductions.

“I’m proud of our kids for having 10 days of practice and come in an environment like this and playing a dang-good team,” Majerle said. “I thought we played very well under pressure. We haven’t had a lot of time to work on situations, so we were coaching as we were going.”

La Salle (3-0) looked phenomenal early, jumping to a 16-4 lead before settling for a 21-13 lead after one quarter and 35-24 at the half.

Christian had a 9-0 run early in the third quarter. From then on, the game went back and forth, with Christian leading my five with 3:48 left in regulation.

Another story line was the play of La Salle freshman Kevin McKay, who hit all eight of his shots for 18 points, including a tip-in at the buzzer to force overtime.

“Nobody boxed me out,” McKay said. “It came right in front of the rim, and I just tipped it in.”

McKay seemed like the coolest cat in the gym and played like anything but a freshman. To top it off, he didn’t seem especially impressed with his performance.

“It’s not that hard at all,” he said matter-of-factly. “I’m pretty good at this kind of stuff. It’s a big deal, I know that. I’m just saying I didn’t lose my cool out there.”

Nether did Turner, who scored six points in the second overtime to seal the deal.

Harris wouldn’t mind a rematch in March at MSU’s Breslin Center.

“I’d really like to play them again,” he said. “I feel our team has grown every day. If we keep working hard, we’ll be a lot better in March than we are now.”

That will be something to see.

Contact Mick McCabe: 313-223-4744 or mmccabe@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @mickmccabe1.


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