Class A Final - Maroon Giants Smush River Rats 74-65

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The Class A game features two good teams. Kalamazoo Central is back after living through future Spartan Keith Appling’s 49 points in last season’s final. Coach Mike Thomas is 50-3 in his two seasons at the helm of the Maroon Giants. This season, they have a 25-1 record, losing only to Saginaw High. Their opponents are the River Rats of Ann Arbor Huron. Rolling into the finals with a 22-4 record, they are well coached by Waleed Samaha. His record is 117-63 in eight seasons. While talking to a few of my colleagues here at the finals, I was informed that Huron doesn’t have a superstar, but a group of guys that play well as a team with crisp passing and few mistakes. Let’s see if a track meet breaks out during a basketball game.

Class A State Champions - Kalamazoo Central

Class A State Champions - Kalamazoo Central

Kalamazoo won the tip and scored on a third chance tip-in to start the scoring. Like I suspected, these teams were racing back and forth on the floor. The Maroon Giants employed a full court press and forced some bad plays by Ann Arbor Huron. Huron went to the full court press as well shortly after. Tempers started to flair and TJ Buchanan got called for a technical foul when he pushed a River Rat to the floor after the whistle. Half way through the first quarter, KZoo held an 8-3 lead, but neither team looked settled in.  Both teams were frantically running the floor and trying to break the other’s press. Toward the end of the first, the teams settled into the grove of the game. KZoo kept the pedal to the medal and held an 18-10 advantage after one quarter.

With more smart plays, the Maroon Giants pushed the lead up. Then Dante Williams hit a pair of threes and cut the lead to six. Williams was playing very well and is a tall, lanky guy with a nice touch. These two teams didn’t like each other one bit. It seems like every play had someone roughing it up under the hoop. KZoo was the better team, but Huron wasn’t going to go gently into that goodnight. Williams hit another three and had the hottest hand on the floor. At the half, KZoo Central was leading 33-25.

Neither team looked particularly great at the start of the third. Some selfish play and not feeding the hot hand led to a 14 point deficit for Huron less than a minute into the third. Both teams kept up their testy play and KZoo pushed their lead to 47-31 half way through the third. KZoo started playing a little rough, picking up their second technical of the game. As hard as Huron scratched and clawed, they couldn’t get back into the game and Williams hot hand turned cold. After three quarters, Kalamazoo Central held a 55-38 advantage.

As the fourth and final period began, AJ Mathew missed his 11th shot, making him 0-11 on the day. The River Rats kept hanging around and a pair of quick three pointers made it a nine point game with 5:27 left to play. As many chances as Huron got to pulled themselves back into the game, they couldn’t take advantage of them. The Maroon Giants kept beating their defense and making nice plays on second and third tries. That really broke the back of Ann Arbor Huron. With some players battling as hard as they could, other players like AJ Mathew couldn’t get any of his shots to drop and just had a bad day shooting. He finished the game 0-14. Devin Oliver led all scorers with 26 points mostly from when they broke the press and pushed it low. He also had nine rebounds and three assists. For Huron, Dante Williams finished with 25 points, six rebounds, and an assist.