Detroit Western International’s Josh McFolley after his name was called to receive his championship medal after their 62-59 win over Saginaw Arthur Hill in the MHSAA boys basketball Class A final on March 28, 2015 in East Lansing.
EAST LANSING – Over the years, it seems like there has been one Detroit Public School after another making its name known through a strong basketball program.
As for Detroit Western? Well, the most the Cowboys could brag about was one PSL title … from 1922.
But now, it’s finally their turn. Western (26-0) won its first state championship today — a 62-59 victory over Saginaw Arthur Hill.
“We’ve never had the program, and now people come out and see us. It’s a great experience,” junior guard Brailen Neely said.
Even this year, Western didn’t get a lot of respect — Neely said people talked about the PSL championship matchup as “Renaissance — and Western.” That might have been because the Cowboys staggered through an underwhelming 6-13 campaign last season.
“That’s why so many eyebrows were raised,” Neely said. “That season humbled us. (Last year was) just depressing nights. We would go in those games knowing we were just as good as those teams or better, and you know, it would end up in the loss, and we would go home with no answers and frustrated.”
The Cowboys figured it out — according to Neely, the players needed to listen to coach Derrick McDowell — and once that happened, Western was on a winning track.
The Cowboys started 9-0 this season before they took the next step with two transfers, Gerald Blackshear and Josh McFolley.
“We figured we were going to have a season like this before those guys came,” Neely said. “When we heard they were coming, they made us happy. They contributed to our success, but we pretty much knew what we were and we had some proving to do.”
McFolley (19 points), Blackshear (16) and Karim Murray (15) led the way today.
McFolley got hot and scored eight points in the final 1:30 of the third quarter, two three-pointers book-ending a steal-shot-score sequence, as Western established breathing room.
“He had a couple big shots, a couple big threes,” Arthur Hill coach Greg McMath said. “He just stepped up when they needed him to. You’ve got to give the kid credit more so than us. We played tough, but he stepped up, he made plays and hit his shots.”
From there, Blackshear scored the first three points of the final quarter as Western’s lead swelled to 47-34. .
The Lumberjacks (24-4) inched closer down the stretch. Eric Davis hit a jumper in the lane and a three before fouling out, while Brian Bowen hit seven free throws en route to a game-high 21 points. However, Arthur Hill simply ran out of time.