We learned a few things on the first day of March Madness.
First, Yante Maten is a serious player.
Second, his Bloomfield Hills teammate Armand Cartwright has eyes in the back of his head. No, really, he must have eyes back there somewhere or else he shot the worst lay-up in the history of lay-ups.
Bloomfield Hills was on its way to a shockingly easy 83-44 victory over Birmingham Brother Rice on Monday evening at North Farmington when Cartwright headed downcourt with a Rice player chasing him down.
Cartwright went up for a lay-up, but the ball went off the backboard and the 6-foot-8 Maten leaped, caught it and slammed it home.
■ Related: More scores from Monday
So, what was it, a terrific pass or a horrible shot?
“It was a pass,” Cartwright insisted. “I was going for a lay-up at first and I saw Yante behind me.”
Cartwright didn’t appear to look behind him, but Maten ran hard after him. “He looked back and we made eye contact,” Maten said.
In other words — he has got eyes in the back of his head?
“Basically, he does,” Maten said.
He just might, because late in the second quarter when Cartwright was chasing a ball down near the Brother Rice bench he grabbed it and blindly threw a pass behind his back and hit Khalil Gracey (12 points), who did not have to break stride and converted a lay-up.
“The dude from Rice was about to go for it and I looked back and I saw Khalil running,” Cartwright said. “I got it and I passed it behind my back.”
It was the kind of play that let everyone in the gym know it was Bloomfield Hills’ night. But they probably had that figured out early when Bloomfield Hills scored the game’s first 10 points. Cartwright (16 points) got things going with the first of his five three-point shots.
Bloomfield Hills (18-3) led, 28-8, after one quarter and 44-21 at halftime. Maten hit 10 of 14 shots for 25 points and added 16 rebounds to lead the onslaught.
He also had a highlight-reel play when he grabbed a defensive rebound and dribbled coast-to-coast for a flying slammer.
“That was just … I don’t know … I just went with the flow and that’s what happened,” he said. “I felt like I could make it to the rim.”
He didn’t hang on the rim, as an official erroneously ruled last week, meaning he had to miss the final game of the regular season, which likely cost Bloomfield Hills the OAA Red title.
You might say Maten took out his frustrations on Brother Rice (12-9).
“I’d kind of like to say probably did a little bit,” Maten said. “Oh definitely I was upset. I don’t know a player that wouldn’t be upset.”
It was a difficult way to end the season for a good Rice team that was an innocent bystander as Bloomfield Hills began its tournament journey.
“We called that time-out at 10-0 and said they’re going to make their runs, they just made it early,” said Rice coach Ed Shaffer. “They’re a really good team; we just can’t stack up with them.”
They are a kind of team you expect to see playing in the Breslin Center in late March.
“They’re talented, they’re deep, they’ve got shooters,” Shaffer said. “They’re a really good team. To beat them, everything’s got to go right for us and we’ve got to hope some things go wrong from them, and neither of those happened.”
Maybe the Bloomfield Hills fans should make their East Lansing hotel reservations now.