EAST LANSING – Jason Whitens was going to make sure the defending Class D champions wouldn’t be caught on upset alert.
The Powers North Central junior scored seven of his team’s first nine points and the Jets took off early in routing Fulton, 64-23, Thursday night at the Breslin Center.
The Jets (27-0) will face Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes Saturday morning at 10 a.m., with hopes for a repeat.
“We don’t try and do anything different,” North Central coach Adam Mercier said. “They have expectations of themselves. We don’t follow anyone else’s expectations. There is no pressure on these kids. The game of basketball is meant to be played with a lot of passion, fun and energy.
“This is 17-, 18-year-old kids playing the game of basketball. When they play it, they play well. We’ve tried to keep that family-type atmosphere. We don’t let anything interfere with what we do as a team.”
Whitens scored 11 points in the first quarter as the Jets took an 18-4 lead. Powers shot 70% from the field while the Pirates were held to 10%.
Whitens played just three quarters and finished with 23 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and two steals in 23 minutes.
“We try to get everyone involved and let everyone get a piece of the glory,” Whitens said. “We share the glory, and it’s really special to be out there with these group of guys.”
By the 6:44 mark of the second quarter, a Whitens jump shot made it 22-4, and the outcome appeared certain.
He then fed Morgan Cox for a dunk to make it a 20-point lead and a fast-break lay-up by Bobby Kleiman blew the game open at 28-6. Cox made all six of his field goal attempts and finished with 12 points.
“I’m feeling great,” Cox said. “I know it’s my senior year, and I’m going to give everything I have Saturday. I’m going to bring it all.”
Whitens and North Central then turned the scoring over to junior Dawson Bilski (11 points). He scored eight straight points to increase the lead to 41-9 with a minute left in the first half.
The Pirates (19-7) managed to score just five points in the second quarter.
Whitens scored 15 in the first half and Bilski chipped in 11. The unselfish Jets had three players with three assists and another with two for a total of 12.
North Central shot a blistering 68% in the first half and held a 21-9 rebounding edge. The Pirates made just three of 23 field goal attempts for 13% and were two of 11 from three-point land for 18.2%.
In the third quarter, the Jets were the beneficiaries of a running clock as the Pirates couldn’t score until Zach Walden hit a triple with 4:15 left in the third to make it 52-12.