Many people had already awarded the state championship to the Detroit Renaissance Phoenix before the season even started. Who would think otherwise of a team with two All-Americans surrounded by solid players and great coaching? That same kind of thinking crept into the minds of almost every opponent Mark White's club squared off against. That said, with the class B state-title on the line, the Dewitt Panthers entered Saturday night's contest unintimidated and certainly not buying into the pre-destined plan for the Phoenix.
Conventional wisdom had it that Renaissance's superior athletes would run all over Dewitt. That, however, was not the case early in this game. Coach Ron Marian of Dewitt did his homework, sending his Dewitt team out in a 2 - 3 zone. The zone slowed the Phoenix offense to a halt and the first quarter ended with Dewitt leading 7-6. Yes, the explosive Renaissance offense only managed six points against the disciplined Dewitt defense led by senior guard Dan Blemaster. Marian knew what he had to do to keep his team in it. "We had the pace where we wanted it," said Dewitt's headman. "We were definitely within striking distance." Unfortunately for the Panthers, the dam was only going to hold for so long.
Renaissance came out on a mission in the second quarter. Coach White had his team push the ball at every opportunity in an attempt to get the game going at a faster pace. The tempo seemed to help the Phoenix penetrate the Dewitt zone. Malik Hairston went to work scoring 8 of his 17 points in the second. The momentum finally seemed to shift toward Renaissance late in the quarter when 6' 4" point guard Marcus Stout threw an alley-oop to Hairston ... a play that really got the crowd in its feet. The Phoenix outscored their counterparts 17-9 in the period and carried a 24 - 15 lead into the half.
The two teams traded baskets throughout the third quarter with Renaissance increasing the lead by only 2 points heading into the game's final stanza, 34-23. The fourth quarter was where DeWitt would mount its last stand and that meant that it was Erik Kangas time. Who is he, you ask? Well, he's a young man that made a name for himself knocking down 12 three-pointers in two days of play at the Breslin center. He dropped three of his five for the game in the final quarter, helping him to a 23-point night. That touch infected the rest of his team as Dewitt mounted a small comeback, stroking five three's in the quarter. Unfortunately, time wasn't on the Panthers' side and as time ticked away, the realization of the inevitable set in. A game DeWitt team gave it all that they had, but Renaissance went on to win the state championship 61 - 42. " We gave it our all," said Dewitt point guard Dan Blemaster. "We just fell short."
Malik has been working to become a champion since the beginning of his high school career. Knowing that this was their last high school game, the win was bittersweet for both he and Crawford. "We've been talking about state and city championships since the 8th grade," said Hairston. Crawford, who had 18 points on the night, knew that all the talk would never have become reality without his boy by his side. "I couldn't have accomplished what I have without Moe," said Crawford. “I made sure I kept up with him in practice, playing every day.”
For the full boxscore from the game, click here.
The next level is calling both star players now. However, Crawford is still
the only one of the two that has chosen a college destination. Hairston informed us
that he still hasn't made his final choice, nor has he informed any teams that
they've dropped from his list. With a very full agenda in front of him, starting
with his departure for the McDonald's All American game this morning, a decision
still won't be made public for at least another week.