East Lansing coach Steve Finamore compared what Nate Colon is accomplishing with his boys basketball team to what Jeremy Lin did for the New York Knicks two years ago.
Lin became the first NBA player to score at least 20 points in each of his first five starts. Colon has responded to his promotion from a rarely-used reserve to score 26, 32, 17 and now 38 points in his last four games.
The senior guard’s big game kept Grand Ledge from clinching at least a share of the CAAC Blue title and lifted the Trojans to an 83-60 victory over the Comets on Tuesday.
“He’s worked hard, and he’s coming on late in the season,” Grand Ledge coach Scott Lewis said of Colon. “I hate it that it was against us, but I’m happy for the kid. He played a hell of a ball game.”
Colon made 12 of 14 field goal attempts, 8 of 9 3-point attempts and 6 of 8 free throws to help drop the Comets (11-5, 10-3) into a first-place tie with Holt (14-3, 10-3).
Grand Ledge hosts the Rams for the league title at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.
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“If I would have told our guys at the beginning of the year in team meetings, ‘We’ve got Holt coming into our gym where the winner walks home with the first-place trophy,’ I think we all would have accepted and been happy and welcomed that challenge,” Lewis said.
But the Class A honorable mention Comets have lost three out of their last four games.
“Nobody has been believed in Grand Ledge from the get-go, but we have believed,” Lewis said. “So we’ll see Friday.”
The Comets’ first league loss with previously-injured J.T. Houghton in the lineup came after 15 points by Colon helped East Lansing take a 21-14 lead after one quarter.
After Grand Ledge scored the first four points of the second quarter to get as close as three, Colon scored eight more points to pull the Trojans ahead 35-21 one Comet basket before halftime.
Grand Ledge got as close as four points and was down just six when Colon hit three more 3-pointers to boost the advantage to 56-48 before Houghton three-point play closed the third.
But the Comets narrowed the gap to four early in the fourth quarter, and were down just 61-55 with 5:35 remaining.
“We put a little defensive pressure on them and started playing our tempo,” Lewis said. “We just didn’t get over the hump.”
East Lansing outscored Grand Ledge 22-5 down the stretch because the Comets had to foul, and the Trojans made 10 of 14 free throws.
Akil Mitchell scored 19 points, Da’Vontay Haines added 18 points, and point guard Jared Howenstine had seven steals and seven assists for East Lansing (8-9, 4-8), which has won four straight games.
“We’re tougher to defend with a third scoring threat, sort of like the old Boston Celtics with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen,” said Finamore, citing another NBA comparison.
Houghton and sophomore Malek Adams finished with 16 points each to lead Grand Ledge, and Cassell Jones added 11.