The games between the Belleville Tigers and the Romulus Eagles have been some of the most hotly contested battles in southeast Michigan over the past few years. Unfortunately for the Eagles, the last four contests ended in losses. The most recent meeting occurred a few weeks ago and the Tigers employed a stifling defensive strategy to stymie the play of future Michigan Wolverine Ronald Coleman. The Tiger staff used 6-6 center Rob Igbawua to pressure Ronnie’s outside shots and ran two or three defenders at him when he drove to the hole or set up in the post. Their efforts limited RC to 5 points on only eight shots. After the success experienced with that strategy in the last game, it came as no surprise when the Tigers began to utilize those same tactics Friday night. This time, however, Ronnie was prepared to handle all of the extra attention.
In the last game between the two squads Ron settled for a lot of jumpers. In this encounter, however, it became clear on Romulus’ opening basket that he wouldn’t be doing the same thing. After Belleville scored the first 3 points of the night, Ron drove to the hole from the top key as a second defender collapsed on him. When two defenders converged, Ronnie dished the ball to a basket cutting teammate for an easy deuce. Coleman himself didn’t score his first bucket until Jerret Smith, who didn’t start because he’s been nursing an ankle injury, entered the game and threw him an alley-oop from half-court. Ron converted for an and-1 opportunity, which he capitalized on to put Romulus up 11-7 with 1:57 left in the first. A few moments later Ron brought the ball up court, drove to the hole with a hesitation dribble, and again saw two defenders come at him. This time he kicked the ball out to a teammate for a wide-open 3-pointer to give the Eagles a 16-7 lead at the end of 1.
Ronnie goes up for the shot
The Tigers are one of the hardest working teams in the state and their “high energy” style of play started to show more in the second. Sophomore Leon Freeman provided his proverbial spark off the bench when he rebounded his own miss at the free throw line and made a lay-up to cut the lead to six. A few minutes later senior Tyler Jones nailed a 3-pointer and Freeman followed that up by stealing the ball at half-court and soaring in for an uncontested dunk to make the score 18-15. Romulus continued their sudden lack of ball security by turning the ball over the next two possessions, which allowed Belleville to cut the deficit to 1 with another easy lay-up. Coleman held them off on the other end by driving down the lane to his left and kicking it out to Kyle Wasson for a wide open 3 to make it 21-17 with 4:39 left. Belleville countered with a 3 and continued to keep the pressure on until Coleman gave his teammates a much needed lift with a tip slam on the way to a 30-24 halftime Eagle lead.
Jones and Freeman continued to spark the Tigers in the 3rd with 5 points apiece. They kept up their defensive pressure and managed to tie the game at 40 by the end of the quarter. After a relatively quiet 3rd for Romulus’ key players, they stepped up and showed their worth in the fourth.
Tyler Jones gave Belleville their first lead since early in the game with a drive and scoop to make the score 42-40 at the beginning of the fourth. Ron Coleman came back down and responded, driving to the hole once again and finding the open man going to the basket to tie it back up. Smith followed that up with a breakaway lay-up to give Romulus the lead. Belleville continued to fight back but Coleman just wouldn’t let his team succumb to opposition. Three consecutive times down the court Ronnie got the ball and delivered…twice on buckets in the post and once on an and-1 runner from the left elbow to extend the Romulus lead to 53-47 with 3:19 left. Following that last possession, Jerret stepped in with a play that epitomizes what he brings to the table.
Jerret took the outlet pass from his teammate as a Belleville defender picked him up at half court. He then pulled the ball out to direct traffic and noticed one of his teammates on the weak side of the defense. Jerret then exploded to the rack from the left elbow and jumped about 5 feet from the basket doing a 180 in the air so that he was facing the crowd. At the same time, his teammate on the weak side made a basket cut. Somehow, Smith knew exactly where he was and found him with a no-look pass between defenders and over his left shoulder for an easy lay-up to make the score 55-47 with 2:40 left.
Romulus had an opportunity to put the game away from the line but they went 2/8 from the line down the stretch and allowed Belleville to take the lead, 60-59, with 35 seconds left. The game looked to be over when Romulus missed a shot on the other end and the Tigers rebounded it before getting the outlet pass up-court for an uncontested lay-up. Fortunately for the Eagles, Ronnie didn’t give up on the play and gave chase over the entire length of the court. Just as the Belleville player was about to convert the lay-up to ice the game, Ronnie leaped and blocked it from behind. Another Belleville player tipped it out, but Romulus’ Kyle Wasson with stole it a little under 10 seconds left on the clock. Wasson drove the length of the court and made it all the way underneath the basket and was able to power the ball up for 2 despite a defender being there to contest. Belleville had one more shot with 2 ticks left on the clock, but it fell short and Romulus escaped with the unlikely 61-60 victory!
Ronnie finished the game with 16 points, 10 rebounds, 4 blocks and 5 assists while Jerret had 6 points, 5 assists and 3 rebounds. Tyler Jones and Matt Miller led Belleville with 12 each while Freeman had 10 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 steals.
Romulus closes the season tomorrow with Taylor Truman before opening the Mega
Conference tournament versus Highland Park on Friday.