Pontiac (Mich.) Northern finally began its defense of the Class A state title on Friday. After losing their point guard from last year, Ricky Morgan, to Iowa State, the Huskies struggled to find a solution at the point. When Northern headed to halftime with a narrow 33-30 lead over Ferndale, the team turned to Michigan wing signee Lester Abram, who usually plays center for the Huskies, to run the point.
Abram (right) gave his team 11 points in the first half despite having to sit out the final 6:18 with three personal fouls. In the second half, he gave them even more.
"We told Lester to take over and go to work," Northern coach Robert Rogers told the Detroit Free Press. "We told him big-time players have big-time games."
"Our guards were making bad decisions, so I had to play the point," Abram told the paper. "It was a matter of playing smart with the ball in your hands." He played smart enough to realize that his team needed points from him, and posted 23 in the second half to finish with 34, along with his 11 rebounds. And with Abram at the point, the Huskies extended their advantage in the second half, pulling out an 80-68 win.
"I had to slow the tempo down, make plays and get everybody the ball," he told the Oakland Press. "It's a matter of playing smart when you've got the ball in your hands."
Ferndale was without senior guard Stane's Bufford, but did have 6-6 Kent signee Cliff Brown, who contributed 28 points and 15 rebounds, but was not enough to prevent Northern from getting out of the gate 1-0.
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Also taking the floor for the first time on Friday was 6-9 Michigan power forward/center signee Graham Brown (right) of Mio (Mich.) High School, beginning its first season in Class D. A year ago, Brown might have just been known as "that big kid at Mio," but after spending the spring as summer competing at the Nike All-America Camp and top AAU events -- and committing to Michigan -- he is no doubt drawing considerably more attention from opponents this year.
After opening their game against Class B Tawas Area in a 17-7 hole, the Bay City Times wrote, "It took one giant flying slam dunk by Brown . . . to jump start the Thunderbolts." That dunk started a 19-6 run for Mio, giving it a lead that it was able to hold onto for a 60-55 win.
"We had a few cobwebs," Brown told the Times. "We always seem to start out slow our first game, but (the slam) got us pumped up and we started playing together."
Brown led all scorers with 21 points and grabbed 11 boards as Mio opened the season 1-0.
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Gary (Ind.) West Side continued its wandering ways last week when it traveled to St. Louis for the KMOX Shootout, where the Cougars met Maywood (Ill.) Proviso East. Despite a strong effort, 6-11 Michigan signee Chris Hunter (right) and his West Side teammates struggled to contain Proviso East's All-Brown backcourt, coming up on the short end of a 64-61 score.
Hunter converted 6 of 8 field-goal attempts for 17 points, and added eight rebounds, three blocks and three assists. In the end, though, Proviso East senior guard Dee Brown and junior guard Shannon Brown -- each among the top guards in his class nationally -- were too much, combining for 41 points.
The loss was the Cougars' second of the year, with the other coming against another Chicago-area team, Farragut High School. Prior to its date in the Shootout, West Side was ranked No. 2 in the state by the Munster (Ind.) Times. The team is now 4-2 on the season.
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Led by 6-3 Michigan point guard signee Daniel Horton, Cedar Hill (Tex.) High School picked up a trio of easy wins in its last three games. The Longhorns cruised past Lindale in a game that was over as soon as it began, finishing with a lopsided 90-23 victory. Ten players scored for Cedar Hill, which was led by Horton's 20 points.
The margin was a little closer in Cedar Hill's next game, against Denison. Horton (right) found his playing time limited by fouls, and eventually fouled out with 12 points, but it was of little consequence, as the Longhorns again rolled, 105-59.
The 72-45 final score of Cedar Hill's Sunday meeting with Mesquite might suggest a closer game, but by the time the teams headed to intermission with the Longhorns up 41-16, the result was no longer in question. Horton knocked down five three-pointers to finish with 22 points as Cedar Hill improved to 11-1 on the year.
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Notes on in-state underclassmen:
Detroit Southeastern is finally playing like a team with two of the state's best players on it. Junior point guard Brandon Jenkins dropped 30 points on a strong Detroit Denby squad on Friday to led Southeastern to a 65-61 victory. Junior center Walter Waters contributed 11 in the win. On Saturday, Waters had 19 points and 13 rebounds and Jenkins scored 18 as Southeastern claimed a narrow win over Detroit Community, 62-60.
Junior Ije Nwankwo of Detroit Country Day, a 6-7 power forward, has emerged as a serious target of a number of major-conference programs, including U-M. After "warming up" with a game-high 14 points in a 76-33 win against Birmingham Brother Rice on Friday, Nwankwo went off on Saturday. Facing Detroit Southeastern on Saturday in the Walt Keener Tip-Off Classic, he carried Country Day to victory with totals of 33 points and 21 boards.
Dion Harris scored 35 points in his season opener, but the junior two-guard was held to a more modest total, 14, in a Friday matchup with Detroit Cody. Harris's Redford squad nonetheless won by 19, 65-46.
Junior wing Olu Famutimi rebounded nicely from a disappointing six-point performance in Flint Northwestern's season-opening loss. In the Wildcats's second game, Famutimi scored 12 in the first half en route to a total of 17, but it was not enough to overcome a 39-point dream game by Flint Southwestern junior Brandon Bell, the younger brother of former Michigan State guard Charlie Bell. Southwestern claimed a 75-74 win in overtime.
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