BY JAKE LOURIM
BEVERLY HILLS — Detroit Renaissance tried to play physical with Rochester senior James Young. It’s nothing he’s not used to.
“If my jump shot’s not falling, I’ve still got attack the basket,” Young said, “and get as many free throws as I can. I just had to stay strong with the ball.”
Young played through Renaissance’s physical defense to help Rochester to a 63-51 win Thursday night in the Motor City Roundball Classic at Birmingham Detroit Country Day.
Although he only shot 8-for-24 from the floor, Young finished with 27 points and 13 rebounds on 10-for-12 free-throw shooting to lead Rochester.
Renaissance tried to pressure the All-American, bodying up on him, but ended up sending him to the line several times.
“Me personally, I don’t care how good a high school player is, if you contest every shot, it’s going to be hard for them to score,” Renaissance coach Cameron Nichols said. “That was our goal. We wanted to make sure every shot he got, if it was going to be a deep 3 or a turnaround shot, there was going to be a hand in his face. We were going to box out.”
Renaissance’s physicality worked in the first quarter as the Phoenix jumped out to a 13-10 lead and outrebounded Rochester 9-1 in the first quarter.
As the game went on, the Falcons started to push back and ended up winning on the boards 23-15 in the second half.
Rochester 6-8 center Arben Carmaj scored his only basket with 21 seconds left in the first half, and the Falcons never trailed again.
Rochester coach John Pleasant said his team took steps toward playing as a full team after acquiring Young in late August.
“We’re still a work in progress,” Pleasant said. “Our guys are still learning to play with him. It’s getting there.”
As the deficit built, Renaissance brought the pressure. It extended to three-quarter and full-court at times and forced eight second-half turnovers — four from Young — but also sent the Falcons to the line.
As with the physicality, it took Rochester some time to adjust to the pressure, but once it did, the Falcons moved the ball around.
“I thought for the most part we handled it OK,” Pleasant said. “When we started pressuring late in the second quarter I thought our pressure bothered them a little bit.”
The difference was the third quarter, in which Rochester outscored Renaissance 16-5 and 13-0 in the last 3:34 of the period. The Falcons were in the bonus before the quarter ended.
In its 13-0 run, Rochester used Young’s athleticism to complement a tough inside game.
The Falcons used their height advantage, as a put-back by junior Mike Murri in the final minute gave Rochester its largest lead to that point.
Young scored two free throws on a technical by Nichols, then scored a driving layup on the ensuing possession to extend the lead to 13 points.
“Even in practice, I’m not the best referee at all,” Nichols said. “Those kinds of things, you’ve got to fight through. And we did — we made a run. Down 18 with three minutes to go, we could have easily packed it in. We’re going to fight from tip to buzzer. If we’re not getting the calls, it’s just not our night. Whatever the circumstances, you’ve got to play through it.”
Young’s 3-pointer with 5:51 left in the game made it 51-32 before Renaissance knocked down a 3-pointer, setting off a furious late rally that ultimately fell short.
The Phoenix tried to rally back with its inside game, shooting 7-for-10 at the line in the fourth quarter after managing no foul shots in the third quarter.
“When they went with the pressure, we just put James in the middle and tried to reverse the ball,” Pleasant said. “When James gets the ball in the middle, usually good things happen.”
On the other end, the smaller Phoenix couldn’t seem to get Young into foul trouble.
“They play a lot of zone, so it’s hard to attack him, because it’s him and someone else,” Nichols said.
Murri scored 12 and Jamar Randolph added seven points to lead rochester’s supporting cast.
(Jake Lourim is a senior at Troy High School and a member of the S.H.P. Media Group / www.northoaklandsports.com Student Correspondence Program. He is publisher of website www.troycoltsportsupdate.com and a member of the Troy school newspaper editorial staff. He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com)