The Macomb County Cougars and BigEekay Sports faced one another in the AAU Division II State Semifinals Sunday afternoon. Normally a member of Durand Walker’s “The Family” traveling squad, Ramar Smith joined the Cougars this weekend to “help out his neighborhood.” His addition to the team took it to an entirely different level and made the Cougars one of the units to watch over the weekend.
Big Eekay Sports, an Ypsilanti based team, featured Belleville’s Leon Freeman as it’s star attraction. He isn’t as well known as Smith outside of the state, but those who regularly follow the in-state seen know the talent that this youngster possesses. At 6-3 185 pounds, Leon is an athletic wing that gets off of the floor very well and has good stroke from deep. His game is in direct contrast with Smith’s power/slashing style, which set-up for a very exciting match-up.
Ramar Smith (left) and Leon Freeman (right)
Smith was a demon in the paint throughout the afternoon. He continuously power dribbled around defenders and made it all the way to the hole with jump steps. His 24 first half points paced his team. Freeman did his best to keep his squad in it with 15 of his own, but his squad still went into the half down 45-36. While it seemed like the Cougars were poised to put Big Eekay away, the excitement was just beginning. The two stars saved their best efforts for the remainder of the contest.
Ramar with the up and under move on Leon and another BigEekay player
Early in the third quarter Freeman’s teammates seemed to forget him on offense. Because of foul trouble and injury, the Belleville star had to man the post on defense and was often the trailer in transition. But since shots were being put up so quickly, there were instances when the Cougars were already headed back down court with a rebound before Leon even crossed the half-court line. That, however, didn’t deter him. As he did during the regular season, Leon showed himself to be a clutch player. He nailed a few jumpers to keep his team in it. Then Ramar came back with what could have been a knockout blow.
After grabbing a rebound the Detroit King star sprinted down the court with the ball. When he reached the top of the key he hesitated with a left to right behind the back dribble. He this crossed back left and made Leon drop to the floor in confusion. Ramar finished with the lay-up and had the crowd going nuts. Not wanting to be out-done, Leon went straight to the rim the next few plays. On each occasion he scored and afterward he made sure Ramar knew about it. The verbal confrontation (although friendly) heated up during a time out. BigEekay was still down at that point, but they weren’t out
Leon's Belleville teammate, Tommie Clark, was big time on the afternoon as well. He nailed a number of threes and converted a huge dunk over one of the Cougar players at the end of the third for 2 of his 31 points on the afternoon. Despite the efforts of he and Freeman, BigEekay still faced a 10 point deficit, 69-59 heading into the fourth.
The last quarter saw the refs continue to be generous to the Cougars with foul calls. They even called a few inexplicable technical fouls. At one point an overzealous ref threw out BigEekay’s head man, Eric King, after hitting him with his 2nd tech of the day. The team responded to the adversity and outscored the Cougars 25-15 in the final stanza to knot the score at 84 and send the game to overtime.
In OT, Leon's team came out in a full court press that seemed to rattle the opposition. The only person that could handle it seemed to be Ramar. He was able to break the press with ease. The game was still tight when one of Leon's teammate’s fouled out. That was crucial because there were only eight players with the team to begin with. Two had already fouled out and another had been lost to injury. That meant BigEekay had to finish the game playing 4 on 5. Even with that, Leon's team still had a chance to tie the at the end of OT.. As the last seconds of overtime disappeared from the clock, Clark pulled up for a 25-footer…but it hit the front of the rim and gave the Cougars the 104-101 victory.
Ramar finished the game with a game high 40 points, while Freeman tied Clark for second with 31. We’ll have much more on the recruitment of these players in our basketball recruiting roundup later.
I received a call from Romulus Coach Nate Oats last night and he informed me that his kids had a lot of success at a hoop contest down at North Central College in Chicago. Particularly impressive over the weekend was 2005 PG commitment Jerret Smith. Below is some of what Coach Oats had to say.
“Ken Smith (Jerret’s dad) took all of our kids down there and coached them. I could only watch since school isn’t out yet. They won the whole thing. There were three games and Jerret played really well. He shot it really well. He had three 3-pointers in two of the three games to lead them. We were down in every on of them and came back. He had eight points at the end of one of them in about a 1.5-minute span. Devin Searcy did well too. He had about 5 dunk on the day. I think he’s stepping his game up a notch. He’s starting to play with more confidence.”
Coach Oats appeared on yesterday’s Michigan Insider’s Radio Hour as well. He had a great deal to say about Smith and his 2005 squad, which will also feature rising sophomore Devin Searcy. Be sure to check back tomorrow for the archived audio.