EAST LANSING – The magic ran out for Lansing Everett.
The high school which produced Earvin Johnson put together an amazing postseason run after finishing the regular season 10-10, yet its Cinderella story ended at the hands of North Farmington Friday afternoon.
The Raiders reached their first state final with a 60-48 victory in a Class A semifinal at the Breslin Center. They never trailed, and distanced themselves from the Vikings with a 14-0 run to start the second half.
Billy Thomas put the hurt on the Vikings by scoring 26 points, including a perfect 10-for-10 from the free-throw line.
“I think we started off slow in the first half; it was a low-scoring game, 20-17, and we just had to pick it up offensively, because that’s our main thing, really,” he said.
Thomas was 4-of-8 beyond the arc, and his long bombs came at crucial times. He hit one early as the Raiders charged out to a 6-0 lead, and he added two more to start the third-quarter run.
“That hurt,” said Everett coach Desmond Ferguson. “We always talk about the first four minutes coming out of halftime, trying to get an advantage, and they hit two threes and a got a lay-up for a quick eight points, and it was tough to battle back from that.”
Fortunately for the Vikings, Jamyrin Jackson thawed out after a cold first half, scoring all but three of his game-high 27 after the break.
“When I started hitting my shots, I knew that we could battle back,” he said, “but coming into the game, I knew if we got down, it was going to be a tough ride, because it’s the Breslin and everybody there wants to win the state championship.”
The run enabled North Farmington (24-2) to stretch its lead to 34-17 lead three minutes into the second half. Everett (16-11) eventually climbed to within eight, 45-37, on a Jackson triple with five minutes left in the game, but that was as close as they could get.
While Jackson was lighting it up, North Farmington prevented any other Everett player from scoring in the second half, until LeAndre Wright scooped the ball in with 5:29 to play in the fourth. The Vikings didn’t get a single offensive rebound during that stretch.
“Third quarter I thought we really guarded well,” North Farmington coach Todd Negoshian said. “That was a key for us; at halftime that’s what we kept talking about. We had to keep getting stops defensively; one-and-done, and things would be better for us.”
Things were better for North Farmington at both ends of the court. The Raiders (24-2) shot just 27.8% from the floor in the first half, but 65% after halftime. Amauri Hardy added 15 for the Raiders, as Friday’s starting unit of Thomas, Hardy, Jacob Joubert, Deon Jenkins and Alex Darden combined for all 60 points.
“I thought we really shared the ball in the third quarter,” Negoshian said. “We kept it as simple as we could; the first open man threw it ahead, we passed up a good shot and kicked it one more time for a great shot for a teammate. It showed how unselfish we are as a group, and just how much we want to win.”
It’s the biggest victory ever for North Farmington, which has 11 seniors on its 12-man roster.
“I think it’s a great win for our program and our school,” Negoshian said. “To have seniors that have put in the time and the effort that they have, really speaks volumes to where we’re at. We’re just privileged to be here, and we’re happy to live to see the final day of the season.”