Coach Mike Williams really doesn’t have anything against trying to short circuit the scoreboard with a bundle of points each night.
But he knows trying to reach triple digits is not in his Flint Beecher boys basketball team’s best interest.
“We don’t want a game in the 80s and 90s,” Williams said. “We want the game in the 60s and 50s. That’s not because we can’t score, but if the game is in the 80s and 90s it means we’re not playing defense and we’re not rebounding.”
And when push comes to shove for Williams, playing defense and rebounding are just about the only things he cares about.
“If you want to win a championship and you get in that tournament, it’s eight games,” he said. “You’re going to run into a game where you’re not going to be able to shoot, you’re not going to be able to execute the way you want to, and you are going to have to play defense in order to win. That’s what we’ve focused on, with that becoming the identity of our team and then the offense takes care of itself.”
Exactly what does Williams know about winning championships? He led the Bucs to consecutive Class C state titles in 2012 and in 2013 when Monte Morris was running the show for Beecher.
Morris won the Hal Schram Mr. Basketball award in ’13 and now is playing spectacularly well for Iowa State. But Williams realizes that you aren’t going to have someone like Morris very often, which is why he has always emphasized defense and rebounding even when Morris was in the lineup.
Both rebounding and defense came to the forefront last week when Beecher defeated unbeaten Flint Northwestern, 68-60, on Tuesday and then beat River Rouge, 60-43, on Friday.
Because of the close proximity of the schools, the Northwestern game was a huge rivalry game and a contrast in styles.
“They’re very athletic. They like to pressure; they want to push the tempo,” Williams said. “Our kids know them, they know us. It was about going after them, keeping the pressure on them, forcing them to take the shots that we wanted them to take and getting stops.”
Beecher was able to keep Daryl Jones (26 points) from dominating the game and limited jumping jack Rashad Johnson to 14 points. Beecher sophomore point guard Malik Ellison, 5-feet-8, scored 18 points and was outstanding, and 5-9 senior Sammy Toins (15 points) hit five three-pointers.
“Malik is growing,” Williams said. “He’s not very big, but his game is growing. He’s getting mature, he’s getting stronger. He understands when to pick his spots and when to run the team. As a sophomore, he can still be inconsistent at times, but he showed up big in the biggest moments.”
Senior Cedric Moten, 6-2, contributes scoring and rebounding as 6-7 sophomore Lavon Blake develops his game. Junior Aquavius Burks, 6-3, played a key role on the state championship team as a freshman and is capable of playing any position.
After defeating Northwestern, Beecher came to “the 313” and beat River Rouge, controlling the second half and keeping talented point guard LaMonta Stone II under control.
“Their guard, LaMonta, he did a lot of his scoring in the first half and we made some adjustments,” Williams said. “We pressured them; we tried to keep the ball out of his hands and force the other players on their team to do things.”
The win over Rouge was important because it came on the road and Beecher has not had much success lately playing in the Detroit area, losing the previous four games played here.
But don’t expect to stop coming to the Detroit area anytime soon.
“We love playing in Detroit and we love playing Detroit teams, that’s how you’re going to get better,” Williams said. “We’re only going to get better, and it’s a true measure of where you are.”
Beecher is in Flint now, but Williams hopes the Bucs will be in the Breslin Center the fourth weekend in March.
The Detroit Public School League will play its championship games Friday at Calihan Hall. King and Cass Tech play for the girls title at 5 p.m. and Western and Renaissance play for the boys crown at 7:30.
The Catholic League’s girls tournament has reached the semifinals. In Tuesday’s C-D Division semifinals at Warren De La Salle, Riverview Richard will play Wixom St. Catherine at 6 p.m. followed by the Bishop Foley-Shrine game.
The A-B Division semis will be Wednesday at Novi Detroit Catholic Central. Birmingham Marian will face Regina at 6 and will be followed by the Farmington Hills Mercy-Dearborn Divine Child game.
Contact Mick McCabe: 313-223-4744 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mickmccabe1.