EAST LANSING – Cassius Winston’s bucket list is now complete.
Four-time Catholic League champion.
Michigan’s Mr. Basketball.
Class A state championship.
After two years of final four frustration, the U-D Jesuit senior guard brought his young crew along sure-handedly in a 69-49 win over North Farmington Saturday at the Breslin Center.
He finished his prep career with 31 points on 14 of 16 shooting from the field. He also recorded nine assists, nine turnovers, four rebounds and two steals in leading the Cubs to a 28-0 record and the first state title for a Class A Detroit Catholic League team since 1976 when Detroit Catholic Central beat Saginaw.
“Eight years ago I said in my interview that this program had the potential to win a state championship,” said U-D coach Pat Donnelly. “We put in a lot of hard work in the gym and in the weight room. This is the culmination of a lot of hard work by these guys and the guys in the locker room.”
Winston went in the stands and celebrated with his fans before the awards ceremony.
“Everything you want in a team we had,” said Winston said. “I don’t think Matt Schearer took a shot today and he didn’t care. Scott Nelson came off the bench and had 13 points. Last year we didn’t have the shooters we have now and teams were able to focus on me. This year Greg (Eboigbodin) and (Ikechukwu) Eke averaged 10 points and 10 rebounds a game. This is what Coach D and I have been working towards for four years.
“I knew I had to be ready from the start. I kept making shots and my teammates kept setting screens and looking for me.”
Between the third and the fourth quarters with his team ahead, 55-40, Winston was honored as the state’s Mr. Basketball, posing with his dad, Reginald, and the trophy.
North Farmington’s Billy Thomas, Winston’s former backcourt teammate at U-D, did his part to keep the Raiders in the game, scoring a team-high 23 points.
“Billy is a very talented scorer,” said Donnelly. “The key was to make him work to catch the ball and score. I thought Elijah (Collins) and the rest of the guys did a great job.”
Winston said all year that he couldn’t do it on his own — and he didn’t have to. Eke and Eboigbodin, who helped make the Cubs one of the best defensive teams in the state, combined for 18 points and 21 rebounds while Nelson scored 13 off the bench.
“The development of Eke the last couple of years has been remarkable,” said Donnelly. “His footwork and strength and post-up game.”
Eke’s big moment was a volley spike-type blocked shot on Jacob Joubert in the fourth quarter.
Thomas and Winston had their moment when Thomas was knocked to the ground by Eke in the fourth quarter and they chatted after the Cub helped him up.
Said Thomas: “I didn’t take it as a challenge. It was another game. I’ve been here before. I just wanted to win the game.”
Contact Perry A. Farrell: 313-222-2555 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @farrellperry.