BY DAN STICKRADT
STERLING HEIGHTS — Mr. Basketball candidate James Young returned to Rochester’s lineup Monday night, the opening evening of the boys basketball state tournament.
The Falcons needed every bit of his ailing body to get past upset-minded Utica Ford in a Class A district contest at Sterling Heights Stevenson.
Young scored eight of his 16 points in the fourth quarter, as Rochester outscored Ford 19-11 down the stretch to post a 61-51 victory.
Young, who missed the final four games of the regular season due to a calf injury, playing sparingly in the first half before stepping in and taking over the fourth quarter.
“We needed him tonight. Utica Ford is a very scrappy team. They were well-prepared for us and gave us a great game,” admitted Rochester coach John Pleasant. “James Young is not at 100 percent yet, but he played well in the fourth quarter and helped us pull away.”
Senior Arben Camaj, a 6-foot-8 senior center, scored 20 points in the first half and finished with a game-high 26 points and 12 rebounds for Rochester (17-4), which finished 2-2 without Young.
“Arben has been great the past few games,” said Pleasant. “He dominated inside in the first half, scoring 20 by the half. He had that big game against Oak Park last week and played great a couple of weeks ago against (Troy) Athens. We needed him to step up when James was out and he continued to do so tonight.”
Junior forward Mike Murri finished 7-for-10 from the foul line and added 14 points for Rochester, which will face Utica in the district semifinals Wednesday.
Rochester led 19-12 after the first quarter but had problems of putting Utica Ford away until the final five minutes of the game. Ford used a 14-12 edge in the second half to close to within 31-26 at the half and continued to fight back with a 14-11 surge in the third quarter.
That run left the Rochester lead at 42-40 entering the fourth quarter.
“You have to give credit to Ford. They are a very scrappy team that just plays hard and we really had to work hard to beat them,” said Pleasant. “This wasn’t easy. Ford was a lot better than their record. They are well-coached.”
Matt Stevens scored 14 points for Utica Ford (7-14).
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