Prior to the start of the season I asked Romulus Coach Nate Oats about the toughest foes on his team’s upcoming schedule and without hesitation, the first team out of his mouth was Belleville. “They beat us every time we played them last year,” Oats said. “I’m 0-3 against them! They know how to play against us.” Those words rang true again last night. Many thought the addition of Jerret Smth would put the Eagles over the top this year, but the Tigers were again up to the challenge. They were a step quicker all night long. The visitors got impressive offensive performances from their three guards; senior Matt Miller, senior Tyler Jones, and sophomore sparkplug Leon Freeman. However, the true story of the game was the Tigers defense. They harassed Ronald Coleman the entire evening and forced him into his worst offensive performance of the season.
Belleville got out of the gate really quick, netting 9 points in the first half of the first quarter. The Eagles answered with 7 points of their own, paced by a couple drives to the hole by Jerret Smith. However, Romulus wasn’t able to match them for long. Belleville played tremendous on the ball defense. All of their players, especially the guards, were extremely quick and tenacious. They also employed a stellar defensive plan against Ronald Coleman. He was guarded by 6-6 center Rob Igbawua, and the big man’s length presented problems at times. That said, Igbawua had a ton of help against the future Michigan forward. Whenever Ron got the ball in the post or drove into the lane…two and sometimes three defenders converged on him. He was only able to get off one shot in the entire first quarter and was forced into a number of turnovers on the evening. Belleville finished with a 12-4 run to go up 21-11 after one.
Ron Coleman for 3!
The second quarter would see Ron became more aggressive offensively, but not from the inside. Three of his four shots in the quarter came from beyond the arc. That, however, was exactly what Belleville had planned. The Tigers always had a hand in RC’s face and he wasn’t able to drain the number shots from long distance that he has been become accustomed to. His only three-pointer came off of a beautiful drive and dish from Smith. Jerret didn’t have as hard of a time as his future Michigan teammate, but he too saw his fair share of in-your-face D from the Tigers. Belleville’s swarming trio of backcourt men frustrated Smith at times, even picking his pocket on a couple of occasions. Still, he delivered a few of his customary beautifully thrown passes. Fortunately his teammates picked some of them up and helped cut the lead in half by halftime. The Eagles went into the locker room down 32-27.
Jerret drops the bounce pass behind him to a trailing teammate
The comeback continued in the third quarter, thanks in part to Coach Oats’ increase in on-the-ball pressure. Smith nailed a huge three to cut the lead to 37-35 and senior DeMarvelous Carter followed that up with a knifing drive to the bucket to tie it at 37. Just when it seemed like the Eagles were making their move, Belleville answered with two consecutive three’s to push the lead back to six, at 43-37 lead with 2:45 to go in the third. Coach Oats called a timeout to try to stop the bleeding, but his team wouldn’t get any closer the rest of the night. The Tigers continued to out-rebound the home team and knocked down the majority of their foul shots down the stretch (while the Eagles shot 2/11 from the stripe for the game) on their way to the 62-52 win.
Jerret drives around his defender
Belleville was led on the night by Miller with 19 points, Jones with 18, and Freeman with 14. Smith led the Eagles with 14 points and 6 assists while Coleman was held to 7 rebounds and 5 points on the night on only 2/8 shooting. He took only one shot in both the first and third quarters. Coach Oats indicated to the Detroit Free Press that he felt his star settled for too many jumpers. "When he scored 31 points back-to-back he was getting the ball down low," Oats told the Free Press. "I personally didn't think he worked that hard to get the ball. He got enamored with the three-point line tonight. He's a great kid so hopefully he'll be man enough to realize what he was doing before and what he didn't do tonight."
Romulus is now 9-1 on the season and will face the Tigers again on February 20.