Romulus' shooting woes from the semifinal round looked to have been solved in the early going in the MHSAA final versus Holt Saturday afternoon. The Eagles came out firing, netting four threes (two each from Dante Williams and Jason Gibson) in the opening quarter of play and led 18-12 after one.
Muhammad El-Amin paced Holt's attack with six first quarter points, but he really picked things up in the second. He drove to the basket eight points on a 23-9 run that put the Rams up 35-27. The Eagles chopped the deficit to six right before the break, but Holt remained on the offensive.
Paul Crosby was a force in Holt's semifinal game versus Grosse Pointe North with 15 points and 13 rebounds, but he had been relatively quiet in the first half versus the Eagles. That all changed at the start of the third quarter. The sophomore big man scored the first seven points on a 12-6 run that pushed Holt's lead to double digits (47-35). After a team-timeout at 3:23 mark, the Eagles had a sense of urgency and Jerret Smith began to take the game over.
Smith went to work immediately, driving to the hole and drawing contact in the process. He nailed two free throws to cut the lead to ten. On the defensive end the Eagles pressed fullcourt, trapped at halfcourt, and doubled Crosby whenever he got the ball. On one such occasion Crosby kicked the ball out for a wide open three, but Romulus was right there with then answer. Back to back threes from Gibson and freshman Dominique Buckley. Smith followed that up with a pull-up jumper from the wing to cap an 8-0 run and cut the lead to five (50-45) with a minute remaining. The Rams finally ended their brief drought moments later when John Lierman hit a lay-up. Holt seemed to sap the Eagles momentum even more in the waning minutes of the quarter with another lay-up to push the lead to nine (54-45), but Smith would rise to the occasion in the fourth and give his team the opportunity to win.
After the Rams pushed the lead to 11 early in the final stanza, the Eagles began their march back. Gibson started things off with a triple and then Smith took them the rest of the way. The senior point guard scored seven straight points, including a three-pointer and a beautiful up-and-under lay-up, to cut the lead to three (60-57) with 3:54 left in the game.
Crosby gave the Rams a little breathing room, scoring a bucket down low and converting and-1 free throw after being fouled. Gibson got those points right back when nailed his final three-pointer with just less than two minutes remaining. The two teams then played to a stalemate until Smith hit a lay-up a minute later to cut the lead to one (63-62).
Seconds later, Romulus had a chance to take the lead but their shot attempt fell short. Crosby seemed to have secured the rebound, but when he brought the ball down, Romulus senior Avery Stevenson tied it up to retain possession for the Eagles with 8.5 seconds on the clock. Jerret Smith took the ball out and almost got called for the five-seconds, but lobbed it in to Stevenson in the corner just in time. As Stevenson received the ball he was nudged toward the sideline from behind. That was enough to force the turnover, as the referee indicated he had stepped out of bounds.
The Eagles immediately fouled guard Ty Motley, who calmly sank two free throws to put the Rams up three with 5.3 seconds left. Romulus had one more shot to win when Jerret Smith drew two Holt defenders and kicked to an open Geryn Reese for a long three-point attempt, but it fell off of the front of the iron, and the Eagles lost 65-62.
On the game Romulus was led by Jason Gibson with 20 points (6/9 from three-point range) and Jerret Smith with 19 points (15 in the second half), five assists, and three steals. Muhammad El-Amin had a double-double for the Rams with 18 points and 11 rebounds, while Paul Crosby had 17 points and seven rebounds. For more on the game, click here.
Check back for more notes and quotes from the game later.
State Final Results
Class A Final - March 19
Holt 65, Romulus 62 - Box Score
Class B Final - March 19
Grand Rapids South Christian 67, Muskegon Heights 60 - Box Score
Class C Final - March 19
Olivet 74, Unionville-Sebewaing 55 - Box Score
Class D Final - March 19
Detroit Rogers 71, Bellaire 68 (OT) - Box Score