Don't look now, but Pontiac (Mich.) Northern seems to be hitting its stride. Since a tough three-point home loss to Clarkston dropped the Huskies' record to 6-2, the team had won three straight as February began.
The defending Class A state champion, Northern met Southfield-Lathrup on Tuesday. With 6-6 Michigan signee Lester Abram (right) scoring a game-high 20 points, the Huskies won its fourth in a row, 63-51.
They had been scheduled to meet Southfield High on Feb. 1, but the game was postponed because of a winter storm and rescheduled for Wednesday. Northern had dealt Soutfield its first loss of the year in their first meeting, and Southfield had only lost once since then. Coming into the game, Southfield was ranked No. 11 and Northern No. 12 in the state by Michigan Preps.
Abram struggled early, and had only six points as the third period came to an end with Northern down, 30-25. The Huskies had trimmed the margin to 39-37 in the final minute, and with 22.1 seconds left Abram converted inside and was fouled. He made his free throw to give Northern a one-point lead.
After an unsuccessful trip downcourt by Southfield, Northern hit a free throw, then retained possession after a missed second attempt. Abram was fouled, and knocked down a pair of free throws -- his fourth and fifth points in the final 22.1 seconds -- with 5.6 seconds left, completing the Huskies' 43-39 come-from-behind victory.
On Friday, Northern got the chance to avenge its earlier loss to Clarkston. To do so, however, the Huskies would have to win in the Wolves' gym. Adding to the significance of the game was the fact that to the winner would go the Oakland Activities Association Division I championship. Clarkston entered the game ranked No. 7 in Class A by the Detroit News and No. 10 by the Detroit Free Press; Northern was ranked No. 6 by the Free Press and No. 8 by the News.
Despite a 16-point Northern lead in the first half, the first 32 minutes resolved nothing, as Clarkston came back to tie the game by the end of regulation and force overtime. Down 58-57 in the extra period, the Huskies scored the next five points and, with the exception of a meaningless Clarkston layup at the buzzer, shut out the Wolves.
Abram's 16 points tied for the game-high, and he also had 10 rebounds. With its OAA-clinching victory, Northern's straight win, the Huskies improved to 12-2.
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Abram's fellow signee Chris Hunter (right), a 6-11 power forward/center, also helped his team win its sixth in a row on Friday. Hunter's Gary (Ind.) West Side team took a four-game streak into a Tuesday meeting against Lew Wallace. With the help of 16 points from Hunter, West Side claimed a 78-61 win.
On Friday, the Cougars took on Hammond. Hunter played a complementary role to his Penn State-bound teammate Brandon Cameron, adding 19 points to Cameron's 26 as West Side won, 79-64. West Side is now 15-3 on the year, and retains its No. 1 ranking in Northwest Indiana.
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None of the Wolverines' signees has his team humming along like 6-3 point guard Daniel Horton. His Cedar Hill (Tex.) Longhorns, ranked No. 3 nationally by School Sports and No. 7 by USA Today had won 21 straight entering their game against Arlington Sam Houston on Wednesday.
Horton (at right, with former U-M guard Jimmy King) scored a modest 12 points in Cedar Hill's preceding game, against Arlington Lamar, but his team won easily. Against Sam Houston, the Longhorns again had little need for heroics from Horton, cruising to a 75-49 win despite his racking up four fouls and scoring just eight points.
Horton was his All-America self on Friday, when Cedar Hill faced Arlington Martin. All of his damage from the field came behind the three-point arc, where he knocked down seven triples. Horton also got it done from the line, hitting 8 of his 10 attempts to finish with 29 points in the Longhorns' 89-45 win.
Cedar Hill, now 29-1, wraps up its regular season on Tuesday against Arlington High School. As postseason play approaches, the Dallas Morning News predicts tough competition from Cedar Hill and other teams in the region, noting, "this part of the area produces quality basketball teams like Daniel Horton produces 3-point pandemonium."
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Second only to Cedar Hill's winning streak, among Michigan signees, is that of 6-9 post Graham Brown(right) and his Mio (Mich.) High School team. The Thunderbolts are 13-0 on the year and ranked No. 3 in Class D by the Free Press, No. 4 by the News.
All five of the Wolverines' fall signees are good students. However, for Amadou Ba, a 6-10 center from the West African nation of Mauritania via Bridgton (Maine) Academy, English is just one of his five languages. Understandably, he reportedly has yet to achieve a qualifying standardized test score. Nobody around the Michigan program seems particularly concerned, though, and Ba is expected to qualify. His AAU coach with the Southeast Raptors, Mark Komara, told The Wolverine that Ba took the SAT in late January.
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A difficult season for Flint (Mich.) Northwestern has only gotten more difficult recently. The Wildcats lost their fourth in a row with a tough 71-69 overtime loss to Ann Arbor Huron. Despite the outcome, junior forward Olu Famutimi, one of Michigan's top recruiting targets in his class, was magnificent, finishing with 39 points, 18 rebounds and 8 blocks.
Perhaps the lowest point of the season came on Friday, though. The final 5:16 of the game was played with a running clock, but it could not save Northwestern from an 86-39 humiliation at the hands of Flint Central. Famutimi only got 10 shots from the field; he hit six of them to lead his team with 12 points.
Famutimi's AAU coach with the Michigan Hurricanes, Chris Grier, recently gave The Wolverine an update on the athletic wing's recruitment, which can be found in the Premium section of this site. Of Famutimi's high school season, Grier said, "At the present time, he's concentrating on trying to help his team win a few games and find a niche. They're very young, all underclassmen, but would rather win now."
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Competition will be fierce between Michigan and Michigan State for 6-10 junior center Drew Naymick of North Muskegon (Mich.) High School. U-M head coach Tommy Amaker has already been to North Muskegon to see Naymick this winter. On Friday, MSU's Tom Izzo was on hand for the Norsemen's meeting with Whitehall.
Naymick surely did nothing to temper the Spartans' interest, converting 10-of-18 field goal attempts and 8-of-9 free throws for a game-high 28 points. He added 14 rebounds and six blocks for good measure as North Muskegon improved to 9-6 on the season with a 74-49 win.
Another junior post player, 6-7 power forward Ije Nwankwo of Birmingham (Mich.) Detroit Country Day, is also receiving major-conference interest. Nwankwo is a big reason that Country Day is currently the consensus No. 1 Class B team in the state and is ranked as the state's No. 3 team regardless of Class by the Detroit News, No. 4 by MichiganPreps.com and No. 5 by the Free Press.
He recently told Prep Spotlight that he is considering Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Notre Dame, Marquette and Toledo. The article said that Nwankwo is also receiving interest from schools such as Indiana, Missouri, Cincinnati, Boston College and Rutgers. He is ranked as the No. 7 junior in Michigan and No. 145 nationally by Prep Spotlight, and No. 74 nationally by Hoop Scoop.
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Brandon Jenkins' triple-double on Tuesday against Detroit Finney was just the latest of many for the 6-3 junior point guard from Detroit Southeastern, a top recruiting priority of U-M's. Jenkins had 27 points, 15 rebounds and 12 assists in his team's 61-53 overtime win.
Southeastern is 14-0 and ranked No. 2 in the state, regardless of class, by MichiganPreps.com, No. 4 by the Detroit News and No. 6 by the Free Press. Jenkins is the No. 4 junior in Michigan according to both The Bank and Prep Spotlight.
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