EAST LANSING – It’s nothing in the water. It’s not the fresh air up there. It’s just “it,” and Powers North Central has it.
“We grew up together and we have chemistry,” guard Dawson Bilski said. “Every day we’d be in the gym together, the weight room together. It doesn’t matter where we’re at, we’re always together and have that chemistry, so with that, we have ‘it.’”
The 28-0 Jets also have a second consecutive state Class D championship, turning back Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes 59-48 this morning at the Breslin Center. Furthermore, the Jets also have a 55-game winning streak, which puts them within 10 wins of the state record.
“We don’t like talking about our expectations or what we want; these are kind of just do-it kind of kids,” Powers North Central coach Adam Mercier said. “I try to explain to people all the time what makes these kids special, and I finally came across it in December, and you know what? We just have ‘it.’ To be a coach of kids that want ‘it’ a lot more than others in the past, it’s humbling as a coach, and these kids are going to work their buns off to get ready for next year.”
Despite a tip-off that equated to 9 a.m. local time in the central Upper Peninsula community, the Jets came out focused and were flying by the middle of the first quarter. That’s when they went on a 14-2 run, spurred by Troy Ekberg’s three consecutive baskets, to erase the Lakers’ quick 5-0 lead on two baskets by Devin Senerius.
North Central had a 27-19 edge by halftime, and an 11-0 run midway through the third gave the Jets a 40-22 cushion.
But Our Lady of the Lakes (22-5) called timeout to regroup, switched up its defense, caused turnovers and whittled the deficit back to four points, 49-45, with three-and-a-half minutes to play.
“We got down, we made another run, but we rebounded, we got them rattled,” Lakers coach Paul Robak said. “At that point, it was only four points, but I thought, man, if this thing goes in, we’re going to see if they can handle it. To their credit, they rebounded, their coach settled them down and they finished out the game.”
The Lakers might have cut the gap to two but, after missing both free throws, North Central had a five-point possession on its next trip up the court. Morgan Cox scored on a put-back and was fouled and, although he missed the and-one, the Jets grabbed the rebound underneath and kicked it out to an open Marcus Krachinski, who drained a three from the right baseline. That made the score 54-45.
“At the end of the day, they were better than us today,” Robak said. “We did some of the things that I thought were going to be key. We had to rebound; we out-rebounded them today, we had to control turnovers, we wanted to have 12 or less, we had 12. You look at some of those things and you think we’re pretty darn good.”
However, the Lakers were hindered by making just two of 17 three-point attempts.
“We didn’t stretch the floor enough,” Robak said. “If a couple more of those go down, which we’ve been doing all year, the game is drastically different.”
Jason Whitens led North Central with 16 points, and the Jets got 15 from Bilski and 11 from Ekberg.
Andrew Kline scored 22 for Our Lady of the Lakes, and Senerius added 17.