Only one word — intensity — could describe the atmosphere in Calihan Hall when the Detroit rivals took the court for the title of league champs and a year's worth of bragging rights.
The energy pulsated in the air as two of the best teams in Detroit, and arguably in the Midwest, gathered yet again in the battle for all the marbles. With Pershing winning the first meeting and Southeastern taking home the second, both teams were eager to break the tie.
"We're here, we might as well win it! Let's go!," Appling, a junior, told his team before taking the court. With impressive numbers on both defensive and offensive ends, he also set an example on the floor.
Pershing took Southeastern by storm, building a lead by the end of the first quarter with a great show of athletic ability and three-point shooting by Juwan Howard Jr., who knocked down four throughout the game.
Southeastern steadily fought an uphill battle after the first and spent the rest of the game trying to get back in it. Kimani Boynton led Southeastern with 18, and Brandon Kearney was able to put up 12. But it wasn't enough to stop the stifling defense that Pershing stuck with all night, causing several turnovers, seven of which were steals by Appling.
Pershing was up by 15 at the half, and with many important faces in the crowd — Michigan State University's Tom Izzo among them — the Doughboys were anxious to extend their lead.
"It just shows how much of a relationship (he) has with Keith and me, as well as Dennis Perry," Nix said when asked about Coach Izzo.
Southeastern had a short surge early in the third, with some pretty impressive three-point shooting by Boynton and DaVonte Carter, chipping the lead to as low as 11. But Nix, Appling and company proved to be too much as they pulled further away by the end of the third.
"I told my teammates, ‘You got to give 150 percent'," Nix said. "We worked hard for this, it feels good. It's really paying off."
Nix finished the game nine points and seven rebounds, with two of those points coming from a monster jam in the fourth to seal the deal with style.
"This is nothing. This is just the second half. We still want to win a State Championship. We're going to keep doing what we've been doing," Nix said while slinging an arm around teammate Appling, who finished with 13 points and seven steals.
"He's like my little brother, you know how that goes. We just keep playing hard," Nix said with a smile. Although it was an impressive win for Pershing, it was obvious that as a team they are still focused on a greater goal: winning the State Championship.
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