Detroit East English Village hit all six of its free throws in the final 90 seconds of its Public School League quarterfinal game – and the person least surprised was East junior forward Greg Elliott.
“We have competition in practice to see who’s more clutch,’’ said Elliott. “So when we get to this situation we have fun. It’s nothing new, just like practice.’’
No one was more clutch than Elliott, who scored 19 points Wednesday to lead East English to an 81-76 victory over upset-minded Henry Ford at Cass Tech.
The win sends East English into Friday’s 7 p.m. semifinal game against Northwestern, following the Renaissance-King 5 p.m. semifinal.
Elliott hit four of the free throws and East English was able to withstand Henry Ford’s pressure defense and perimeter shooting down the stretch.
“We focus on this in practice,’’ Elliott said. “We do situational-type stuff so when we get to the game it’s easy to us, real easy.’’
This one wasn’t easy, but East English (14-2) was able to put the kibosh on James Towns after he scored 17 points in the first half.
“He’s so good getting to the basket,’’ said East English coach Juan Rickman. “He charges up the court and if you give him too much space to come at you, at the high school level he’s hard to check.’’
East English did a good job double-teaming Towns at every opportunity in the second half and he managed only two free throws and a three-point play after intermission.
“We really just said make somebody else beat us,’’ said Elliott. “We played him tough, made him use all his energy and once he got a little winded he couldn’t do much.’’
East English beat Henry Ford (10-7) earlier this season, but coach Ken Flowers had his troops prepared for the rematch.
“Man, you know what, Ken Flowers does a great job,’’ Rickman said. “This is the second year in a row we play them and win, and when we play them again he makes great adjustments. He took advantage of our pressure defense.’’
It was Towns’ three-point play with 1:39 left in the game that gave Ford a one-point lead, but Elliott converted four straight free throws and then Cedric Lattimore, who signed with Iowa for football, scored on a back-door play with 14 seconds remaining.
Lattimore, 6-feet-4, 251, is an immovable object in the pain for East English and scored 17 points.
“We just love having Ced down there,’’ Elliott said. “As long as he stays positive he’s good. I don’t know how we got it to him, but it got there and it was a bucket.’’
The ball got to Lattimore because the East guards finally looked for him.
“Our guards have to do a better job,’’ Rickman said. “We’re not a good passing team so often times they miss Ced a lot. So he’s got to stay engaged and not take it personal and stay grinding and that’s what he did.’’
Towns and DeVontages Webb led the Trojans with 22 points apiece and came close to making it a second upset quarterfinal win on this night.
“We had mental breakdowns, gave up a back door play at the end, just playing lazy,’’ said Henry Ford coach Ken Flowers. “We want to say the referees took us out of it, but it really wasn’t them. It was just us having mental breakdowns at the wrong time. That’s’ been our MO all year – little stuff hurt us down the stretch.’’