DETROIT—While Malik Hairston and Joe Crawford were busy with high-flying dunks and authoritative rebounds, someone apparently forgot to tell Detroit Denby the PSL championship game was going on. There might still be a few fans left in the rafters at Cobo Arena waiting to see one.
Renaissance (19-0) defeated the Tars of Denby (18-1) 68-40, Wednesday night to capture its second consecutive PSL title, and the third in five years.
Phoenix head coach Mark White said the back-to-back titles were thrilling to him personally, coming in a game that was so heavily hyped as the "real" state championship.
"I don't think they (Renaissance players) understand the true significance of it," White said. "This is an absolutely great honor, and a blessing to win this thing."
Renaissance, the top ranked team in the Midwest Region by the USA today, established their dominance from the opening possession. Denby, ranked 6th in the Midwest, almost appeared to be in awe of the more talented Renaissance stars.
It took only a little less than ten seconds for Crawford to get Renaissance on the board with a swift move past his defender on the baseline, and although he missed a contested lay-up, quickly rebounded his miss and stuck the ball back in for a 2-0 lead.
A couple of three pointers later in the quarter by Crawford, and Renaissance led 18-11 after eight minutes. Crawford deferred the chance to shine to his fellow teammate and McDonalds All-American Hairston, after scoring 10 points in the first period.
Hairston, who scored two points and grabbed four rebounds in the first quarter, started the second quarter with a massive put-back dunk of a Tajuan Porter missed shot.
The crowd, a near packed house of over 8,000 people, was still buzzing when two possessions later, Hairston showed a little bit of Crawford quickness, blowing by his defender forcing Denby to foul.
Denby had climed to within eight points, 25-17 with 3:55 left in the first half, but a soaring shot-rejection by Hairston of Enrico Harris, the Denby point guard and Eastern Michigan signee, led to a dunk by Crawford.
A three-pointer by Crawford the next possession, and then a big-time alley-oop from Porter to Hairston left the crowd again buzzing with less than two minutes in the half. Hairston scored the final four points, giving Renaissance a 32-17 lead and Hairston nine first-half points with seven boards.
Renaissance effectively ran away with the game in the third quarter, as they out-scored Denby 22-9. While the Pheonix was nearly scoring at will, Denby leading scorer and Mr. PSL winner Darryl Garrette, was struggling to find any flow in their offense with Malik draped all over him in man-to-man.
Garrette, joining Harris as the other Eastern Michigan signee averaging 27.1 points per game, was held to 17 points for the evening. Even more staggering, was the charted five points that he scored whenever Hairston was on him.
Hairston talked about Garrette's winning the Mr. PSL award over him or his teammate Crawford, which raised many eyebrows.
"We can't really control that," Hairston said. "Congrats go to Darryl, he's a good player. But really, we got what we wanted and what really mattered."
Already holding a 54-26 lead heading into the fourth quarter, Malik and Joe put on one final show for the crowd.
In a one minute span, Hairston threw down another furious rebound dunk, sent a blocked-shot literally flying eight feet away from the court, and Crawford capped things off with a fast-break windmill dunk getting everyone again buzzing including North Carolina head basketball coach Roy Williams.
"We just really love to motivate ourselves," Crawford said. "Malik and I play off each other really well. We feed each other."
Renaissance held as much as a 31-point lead before finally defeating Denby by the final 29-point margin. Hairston said that Denby's asserted confidence served as added motivation.
"They were ready, but we wanted them even more than they did," he said. "Denby is a great team, we were just prepared for them."
Hairston finished the game with 21 points, 10 rebounds, four blocked shots, two assists, a steal, and only two turnovers. His counterpart, Crawford, finished with 21 points and nine rebounds.
Renaissance now prepares for state tournament play. After the tournaments finish up, Malik and Joe will begin all-star competition. Hairston still has a decision to make where he will play his college basketball next season.
Hairston, The Insiders Number two ranked small forward, still lists Kansas, Michigan, Ohio State, Oklahoma, and UCLA as his five schools. Hairston now says he does not believe he will take a visit to Oklahoma as he had speculated for weeks. Hairston has two official visits remaining should he choose to take one. He's already visited Ohio State, UCLA, and Kansas back in September.
"We just played so well," Hairston said. "I think this was our best game all season."
Too little too late for Denby.