CHARLOTTE – This month has been one big blur for Riley Lewis.
From helping his team upset its conference rival for a district championship to losing his coach early in the playoffs to scoring 37 points in a victory over the defending state champions, the Williamston guard is still in shock by what his team has been able to accomplish.
And, still, the best is yet to come.
Behind a game-high 27 points from Lewis, No. 8-ranked Williamston downed River Rouge, 53-46, in Tuesday night’s Class B state quarterfinals at Charlotte High School.
The Hornets (21-3) will advance to play Detroit Henry Ford Friday at Michigan State’s Breslin Center in the state semifinals.
“We just wanted to try and make it out of districts,” Lewis said. “I went to games at Breslin with my dad since I was in first grade – watching guys like Keith Appling and those guys.
“When we got a sniff of that, we knew that’s what we wanted. …It’s been a great time.”
Assistant coach Tom Lewis, Riley’s father, who is filling in for Jason Bauer, said he too didn’t expect Williamston to be one of the final teams standing at the beginning of the season, as the Hornets implemented three new players into their starting lineup.
But he also added that each game this postseason has prepared his side for what will await them this weekend.
“At the start of the year, we were young. We knew we had talent, but we weren’t sure how quickly the young kids would come along,” Tom Lewis said. “It started to happen later in the year when everyone was (tightly guarding) Riley on defense.
“I go back to the (Lansing) Catholic game, they taught us how to play hard. And then Godwin (Heights) taught us how to play tougher – go through, not getting any calls, just playing through anything. And tonight we said we needed to be the more physical team. We needed to get a lead and build on it.”
It took the Hornets all but three minutes to get a lead against the Panthers (22-4), and they never trailed again in the contest. Lewis hit a triple early in the first quarter, with his team down 4-3, to give Williamston a two-point advantage.
River Rouge was trailing by just one to start the second quarter after guard Darian White-Owens, who had a team-high 19 points, converted on a bucket. But a pair of free throws by Lewis ignited a 5-0 run.
The Panthers tied the game at 29-all midway through the third quarter with an 8-0 run, but the two teams ended up trading baskets for the rest of the quarter.
The Panthers once again evened the contest early in the fourth quarter, 36-36, but a bucket, plus the harm, from sophomore Cole Kleiver put the Hornets up by three and sparked a 6-0 run. River Rouge brought its deficit to with four in the final minute, but Lewis sealed the deal from the free throw line.
“Coach told me in the first half that I was going to hit a big shot at the end,” said Kleiver, who scored all four of his points in the final five minutes. “Nobody ever thought that we would come this far, but we proved everybody wrong. We’re just loving the ride.”
Williamston freshman Sean Cobb added 10 points.
Contact James L. Edwards III at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JLEdwardsIII.