Tuesday night's game between Detroit Country Day and Orchard Lake St. Mary's had all of the excitement of a big time college match-up. Touted as a heavyweight clash between two of the country's top juniors, a standing-room only crowd showed up to take in the action. Not only was every major newspaper in Southeastern Michigan among them, but so too were a few faces familiar to Michigan fans. Tommy Amaker was there with his wife Stephanie, as were Wolverine football players Morgan Trent, Charles Stewart, and Chris McLaurin. By the time the game was over everyone left thinking they had seen a show.
Alex Legion was 2/9 in the first half.
The future Wolverine looked to be pressing a bit, and went only 2/9 for the half. Meanwhile, Kalin Lucas didn't fare much better on the score sheet. That, however, was by design. His primary task at that juncture was to run the offense, and the young man did just that.
Orchard Lake ran a virtual clinic on the flex offense in the first half, carving through the Country Day defense like a hot knife through butter. The Eaglets were both patient, sometimes taking over thirty seconds to shoot, and unselfish. The primary beneficiary of their precision was junior forward Jon Tassin. The constant ball reversal and excellent screening by the guards allowed the 6-7 170-lb. big man to leak out from the post to attempt wide open three-pointers. He nailed them time after time. It got to the point where he even hit one in transition.
Behind Tassin's hot shooting, Orchard Lake ate up the nine point deficit and gained the advantage. The slender forward keyed a 27-10 run with 17 points in six minutes to take a 31-23 lead. By the time the half rolled around, he had notched 22 points, including all four of his threes, and the Eaglets were up 39-32.
During the break, Country Day Coach Kurt Keener challenged both his team and his star. "Coach Keener got on me at halftime about the way I was playing," Legion said. "I wasn't playing like he knows I can. It was just a matter of me coming out and being more aggressive."
When the third quarter started, the difference in Legion was noticeable. The 6-5 junior scored nine quick points to help the Yellow Jackets grab a 46-41 lead. Defensively, Country Day neutralized Tassin with the quickness of 6-1 guard EJ Whitlow, but the Eaglets would not die. At that point Lucas decided to take over.
The 6-0 floor-general used his outstanding hesitation and crossover dribbles to seemingly get to the basket at will for much of the game. In the first half he passed it off. Now that his team needed him to score, he chose instead to shoot.
For a while in the second half the Orchard Lake offense was the Kalin Lucas show. Every time down the Eaglets would spread the floor for the clear-out, and Lucas would go to work. After he blew by his man for a few easy buckets, it looked like the game was going to turn into a lay-up drill. However, the Yellow Jackets soon adjusted. Their big men started sliding into the lane to contest Lucas' shots. Then in the fourth quarter fans got what they came to see when Legion switched over to guard him.
When a fan from the Orchard Lake contingent shouted out to Legion, "You can't guard him," the challenge was on. That was all the young man needed to hear to get keyed up even more. Lucas was clearly the quickest man on the court and had already dusted off every opponent that tried to crowd him, so Legion employed a little different approach. He played off of Lucas a bit and used excellent position defense and court savvy to stay in front of him. Immediately after the fan-issued challenge, Legion poked away Lucas' crossover attempt to steal the ball and start a fast-break opportunity.
"We always try to get the best of each other, but it's just competition," Legion said. "That's how it is. There aren't any friends on the court. He's my boy any other time."
With no one to share the offensive burden with him, Lucas started to have a tough time. Backcourt mate Dionte Allen suffered a serious cut all of the way through his lip midway through the first half, and though he came back in the middle of the second, he couldn't find his groove. With him hurt and Tassin now ineffective, Country Day began gearing their entire defense to Lucas down, and all of that attention took its toll. He had to force up shots just to give his team a chance, but the defensive pressure was just too great. Country Day outscored the Eaglets 21-8 in the final stanza to bring home the 69-57 victory.
On the game Lucas finished with 19 points on 6/22 shooting and 1/9 from behind the arc. Jon Tassin's 22 led the Eaglets. Legion, who scored only seven points in the first half, finished with 20.