BOYS BASKETBALL: Clarkston pulls away from Adams to reach Sweet 16

| March 14, 2022 | Comments (0)

Diton, Wasilk, Steinman shine as Wolves avenge

a pair of regular-season losses to the Highlanders





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LAKE ORION — It’s a rare occasion that Cavanaugh Diton gets to enjoy moments in the limelight.

That happened in grand fashion Monday night in the Division 1 regional semifinals at Lake Orion.

The Clarkston junior forward recorded a career-high 15 points — all in the second half — as the Wolves pulled away for a 54-46 triumph over Rochester Adams.

“(Teammates) Keegan (Wasilk) and Nate (Steinman) always push me in practice to work on my shots in the corner or shots all over (the court) to make sure I’m clicking on all cylinders with the team,” smiled Cavanaugh. I did my job out there, making screens, getting rebounds and when my number was called I really stepped up.”

Since returning to the lineup last week, Clarkston senior point guard Keegan Wasilk has been instrumental in leading the Wolves deep into the postseason. Wasilk scored 12 with nine assists, seven steals and seven rebounds Monday in a 64-46 victory over Rochester Adams. Courtesy Photo | Clarkston Athletics

Diton made all three of his three-pointers and was 6-for-6 from the foul line, — all in the fourth quarter — for Clarkston, which outscored Adams 40-23 in the second half.

“Cavanaugh has not had a play drawn up for him all year,” offered Clarkston coach Tim Wasilk. “What Cavanaugh does is he has worked on his shot and he knows when his shot is available — take it. Tonight I know he knocked down back-to-back threes in the second half. He had three of them in the second half. Cavanaugh is an old school Clarkston basketball player and he does all of the little things. He’s a pleasure to coach.”

After missing the Wolves’ final 10 games of the regular season where Clarkston finished an uncharacteristic 3-7, Wasilk, a senior point guard and fourth-year veteran, was all over the court to lead the Wolves. He collected 12 points, nine assists, seven rebounds, seven steals and a block for good measure.

“Keegan’s a stud,” said Coach Wasilk of his nephew. “He’s our point guard and he’s been so since his freshmen year. You can’t replace him, so when we were playing without him the last half of the (regular) season it just totally changed the dynamic of our team. Kids had to step up (in his absence). The depth and coming together as a team has helped us. Now we have him back for the tournament.”

After holding a 24-23 halftime lead, Keegan Wasilk and Clarkston took command with a 19-8 third quarter for a 43-31 advantage entering the fourth frame.

An 8-2 Wolves run to open the fourth stanza gave Clarkston a 51-33 lead. The run was highlighted by back-to-back threes from the left corner by Diton — both from senior guard Zach Austin feeds — and Adams would never get any closer than 12 points the rest of the day.

Steinman, a senior guard who also missed two games this season, scored a game-high 20 points to pace Clarkston. Sophomore forward Brody Kosin added eight points on 4-for-4 shooting, and Austin finished with five points, six assists, four steals and three rebounds for the Wolves (14-9).

Clarkston finished the night shooting 20-for-42 from the field (47.7 percent), a crisp 19-for-23 from the foul line (82.7 percent) and 7-for-13 from three-point range (53.9 percent).

Senior forward John Ursuy led Adams with 18 points and eight rebounds and senior guard Gunner Walters scored 11 points with four rebounds, four assists and two steals before fouling out in the fourth quarter.

Adams finished the night shooting 46.4 percent from the floor (19-for-41), just 40 percent from the charity stripe (4-for-10) and only 20 percent from three-point range (3-for-15).

Adams defeated Clarkston 61-59 on Jan. 28 and again 51-50 on Feb. 22 — both on late game-winning shots. This time around the Highlanders (14-9) could not hang with the Wolves in the second half.

“They were able to gain some separation from us in the third (quarter) and by then we had to get a little more aggressive with our defense to try to come back,” said Adams coach Jaret Thomas. “Then (Cavanaugh Diton) rung the bell for them — give him credit.

“Clarkston is really good defensively,” continued Thomas. “It wasn’t anything new. They are really tough. Our inability to get many stops (in the second half) is what made it hard for us to make shots and come back.”.

The two OAA Red Division rivals dueled to a 13-13 tie after the first quarter, as the two teams combined to shoot 11-for-21 from the field behind a fast pace.

Clarkston held a 11-10 advantage in the second quarter for its one-point, 24-23 halftime lead.

Clarkston will face Novi Detroit Catholic Central (15-8) in the regional finals Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Lake Orion. Catholic Central rolled past Hartland 69-36 in the other regional semifinal Monday night.

The Wolves lost in the regional semifinals to Orchard Lake St. Mary’s last season and the last time Clarkston reached the Sweet 16 was in 2018 when the program went on to win its second straight state title.

“We talk about two-game weeks and last week we played Wednesday-Friday and now Monday-Wednesday this week,” continued Coach Wasilk, who noted this is the 37th straight year that the Wolves have won either a district or league title. “It is just a game and you can’t make it more than what it is. How we approached it tonight was we got after it, take care of us, control what we can control and that’s it. We’re excited to be here.

“These guys have not been in this situation before, (advancing) to a regional final,” continued Coach Wasilk. “With Covid (in 2020) and last year losing to St. Mary’s in the regional semifinals. This is a good opportunity for this group.”

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