EAST LANSING – Henry Ford had been here a year ago, but was facing a tall order in the Class B championship Saturday at the Breslin Center.
The Stevensville Lakeshore front line of 6-foot-11 Braden Burke and 6-7 Max Gishin, plus 6-6 Colin Brushwyler off the bench, had Henry Ford coach Ken Flowers up late Friday night plotting a strategy.
His guards had to control the game.
Flowers’ plan took a beating in the second half due to foul troubles and the Lancers’ size, but the Trojans regrouped to win the school’s first state title with a gritty 61-47 victory.
“I’m kind of emotional right now and I hope I don’t tear up,” said Flowers. “I really don’t know what to say right now. I was joking with the kids yesterday saying I didn’t want to be like the Buffalo Bills; get here four times and don’t win one. My guys made sure we brought it back to Seven Mile and Evergreen. I’m happy for the guys, the program and the community.”
Jeremy Crawley led Henry Ford with 18 points, senior point guard James Towns chipped in 15 and Alston Hunter had 11 points and 10 rebounds.
“We were at the bottom of Class B,” said Towns. “Nobody had us winning.”
Burke led Lakeshore with 19.
The game plan got tight in the third quarter when Devontaye Webb picked up his fourth foul with 3:17 left and had to sit with Lakeshore charging back, 34-24.
The fouls started piling up when Kavon Bey (eight points, five rebounds) picked up two fouls in eight seconds and had to leave with the lead down to 34-28.
Henry Ford struggled to score as the Lancers outscored the Trojans, 15-7, in the third quarter.
But just when the waters appeared murky, the Trojans got a triple from sophomore Deonta Ulmer and another from Crawley to extend the lead to 42-30 with 5:45 left.
“Lakeshore came out and had a great run in the third quarter,” said Flowers. “Those two threes were huge.”
Henry Ford pushed the lead to 48-33 on two free throws by Towns.
“That was a huge part of the game,” said Lakeshore coach Sean Schroeder. “I think that was a loose ball situation. We didn’t come up with it and they hit a three. We didn’t respond and they came down and hit another three. If we cut it to four it gets more interesting.”
Despite the size disparity, the Trojans out-rebounded Lakeshore, 30-19, and outscored the Lancers, 23-6, at the free throw line.
“They knew how to be tough and relentless,” said Flowers. “We’ve been undersized all year.”
Facing a significant height disadvantage, the Trojans guards needed to control the tempo and spread the floor to eliminate weak-side help.
It worked great in the first half as Henry Ford built a 27-13 halftime lead.
“It was another game,” said Hunter. “We had to play defense. We knew we had to get stops.”
Contact Perry A. Farrell at email@example.com Follow him on Twitter @farrellperry