BOYS BASKETBALL: Bloomfield Hills topples Clarkston to win first regional crown

| March 13, 2014 | Comments (0)






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SOUTHFIELD Duane Graves understands just how difficult it is to pull a hat trick against a quality program. Beating a team three times in one season is a daunting, and often, difficult task to complete.

He witnessed the finishing touches Thursday on such a rare effort.

Bloomfield Hills defeated Clarkston for the third time this season, this time on a much bigger stage, holding off the Wolves, 53-52, in the Class A regional finals at Southfield Lathrup High School.

The win gives Bloomfield Hills (22-3) its first regional title, and that includes both Andover and Lahser which merged this past summer.

“This is our first one and I’m so proud of this group,” beamed Graves, who was head coach at Bloomfield Hills Lahser last season and guided his team to the regional finals before bowing out to Rochester. “People barely beat Clarkston one time. To beat them twice was awesome. To beat them a third time is unheard of. What a way to win a regional. Dan Fife is one of the best coaches in the state. That’s why he has over 600 wins. Beating them for our first regional title is quite an accomplishment.”

The Blackhawks will play in the state quarterfinals Tuesday at UD Mercy’s Calihan Hall against Warren Mott, 63-52 winners Thursday over Utica Eisenhower. Bloomfield Hills advanced despite some tense moments in a game of runs.

Senior guard Armand Cartwright nailed two free throws with 15.4 seconds left to give Bloomfield Hills a four-point lead at 53-49. Clarkston’s Mike Nicholson hit a three-pointer with two seconds left to make it a one-point final.

“I knew I had to make them,” smiled Cartwight of his pressure-cooked free throw attempts. “It was excitement.”

Bloomfield Hills led 49-46 with 2:52 to go following a layup from Khalil Gracey. A senior guard, Gracey also fed Xavier Reynolds for a layup and a 51-46 advantage with 2:03 remaining.

Sophomore forward Tabin Throgmorton trimmed the deficit down to 51-49 for Clarkston when he drilled a three-pointer from the corner with 1:45 to play. Time ran out on the Wolves in the end before they could make another run.

“We’ve had a lot of guys step up this season, not just our big three (Gracey, Cartwright and Yante Maten),” said Graves. “We’ve had a lot of guys come through when we needed them. Maybe it doesn’t always show up in the (stats), but even the guys who don’t play much beat up our starters up in practice, making them better. It takes everybody to get this far in the tournament.”

Clarkston has had multiple deep runs in the postseason, including 20 times in 22 seasons that the Wolves have made it to at least the regional semifinals. Clarkston has lost in the quarterfinals eight times in the past two decades and even reached the Final Four in 2009.

“It was a game of runs and unfortunately time ran out on us. They went on a run, then we would come back, then they would go on another run,” said Fife. “I think the guys really wanted to win this game. We always play hard and we played really hard tonight. We just came up short and lost to a better team than us. There is no shame in that.”

Bloomfield Hills nailed five 3-pointers in the first quarter which aided a 20-13 lead. Clarkston answered with a 13-6 run in the second quarter to forge a 26-26 tie at the half.

Neither team could build a lead of more than three points in the third stanza, with Bloomfield Hills holding a 39-38 edge at the end of the period.

Maten, a 6-foot-9 senior center, led Bloomfield Hills with 16 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks. Cartwright followed with 14 points for the Blackhawks.

Throgmorton had 16 points to lead Clarkston, while Nicholson had 15 points, eight rebounds and five blocks for the Wolves (20-5), who lost in the regional finals for the second time in four years.

“We won the league (for the 11th time in 12 years) and we finished 20-5. I always feel like that if you win 20 games, then you had a really good year,” said Fife. “We got to the regional finals and came up short. It’s still a really good season.”











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