Although Detroit East English Village keyed on Michigan State signee Cassius Winston all night, the Bulldogs learned the hard way that U-D Jesuit has a skill set that extends far beyond one player.
Sure, Winston got his 30 points running the floor, but Ike Eke and Gregory Eboigbodin clamped down around the hoop, and Scott Nelson came off the bench to score 20 points in 17 minutes as the Cubs (20-0) beat the Bulldogs, 92-76, in the Operation Friendship championship at Wayne State University.
East English Village (16-4) led, 45-42, with three minutes to go in the third quarter, but Nelson hit back-to-back threes, keying a 17-0 Cubs run that left little doubt on what the outcome was going to be.
“I hit a couple and it just started going,” said Nelson, whose long bombs are usually connected to his other role as an all-state quarterback.
“I got my mind set and just started shooting every time. Cassius was just doing a great job drawing the players and kicking it out,” Nelson said. “Once we got that lead we just had to keep going; we couldn’t give it up. We had to keep scoring, keep getting easy buckets, playing good defense.”
U-D Jesuit coach Pat Donnelly said the late surge was fueled at the opposite end of the floor.
“I’ve been telling the guys all year that defense wins championships,” he said. “That run was based on good, solid defense. We got some turnovers. When we get turnovers, we can get out and transition to easy baskets, and that allows us to get a little bit of a lead.”
The Cubs led by as many as 17, scoring 38 points in the final quarter.
“We felt like we could run,” Donnelly said. “I don’t want to give away too many secrets, but we felt that we could get out and transition and score, and I think most of our points were in transition.”
It was the first-ever Operation Friendship win for Class A’s top-ranked team, and the Cubs hope Thursday’s experience prepares them for another potential first, winning the state title.
“I mentioned that coming in and at the end of our Catholic League tournament that tonight’s game was a great tune-up for district play,” Donnelly said. “East English Village is a very talented team; they’ve got some real good offensive firepower, they play very aggressively defensively.”
The Bulldogs had three starters in double figures: Gregory Elliott with 22, Cedrick Lattimore with 18 and Karmari Newman with 17. However, they also had three players foul out and committed 20 turnovers.
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