Last week was very good to the Gary (Ind.) West Side Cougars. West Side lost its No. 1 position in the Munster (Ind.) Times' rankings with a loss to Roosevelt High over the holidays, and last Tuesday the Cougars met Roosevelt with a chance to reclaim the top spot. But if they were to succeed, they would have to do so in Roosevelt's gym.
Michigan signee Chris Hunter (right), a 6-11 power forward/center, broke out of the gate quickly, scoring 11 points in the first period for West Side as it opened with a 25-9 run to lead 28-18 at the end of the quarter. Roosevelt came back, and took a 41-40 lead into halftime. After some back-and-forth, Roosevelt took a narrow 65-63 lead with 4:42 left in the game, but West Side scored the next eight points and 12 of the final 16 to win, 75-69.
Although he cooled off somewhat after his torrid start, Hunter still managed to convert 10-of-16 field goal attempts and 5-of-7 free throws for 25 points. He also grabbed 11 rebounds before fouling out.
"We just started to wear them down," Hunter told the Times. "We had to get that emotion out of us and just get focused."
"They said Chris Hunter is soft, but I think he showed tonight that he's a player," Cougars coach John Boyd told the paper.
After the win at Roosevelt, the Times opined, the Cougars "were definitely ripe for a letdown" against Gary Wirt, whom they had already beaten twice this season. However, with the Northwestern Conference title on the line, West Side did not have to invent motivation for itself.
Led by Hunter's 15 points and 10 rebounds, the Cougars won in a low-scoring affair, 54-43. The versatile big man hit 5-of-8 from the floor -- including a three-pointer -- and 4-of-6 from the line, and blocked two shots for good measure. In addition to giving West Side the Conference championship, the win also improved the team's season record to 10-3, and capped off a week in which the Cougar regained the Times' No. 1 ranking in Northwest Indiana. Still, Hunter was not entirely satisfied.
"We definitely didn't have the same intensity we had against Roosevelt," he told the Times, "but I thought our defensive intensity picked up in the fourth quarter. It's a mental thing with us. We always seem to play to our competition and we have to get away from that."
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The Cedar Hill (Texas) Longhorns are making College Station (Tex.) A&M Consolidated look awfully good. In November, A&M Consolidated dealt Cedar Hill its first loss of the season after the Longhorns opened with six wins. Cedar Hill bounced back in its next game and has not looked back since, reeling off 14 straight wins going into its meeting with Arlington Sam Houston last Friday.
The Longhorns got a tougher-than-usual contest from Sam Houston, which fought back to tie the score at 46 apiece by the end of the third quarter after trailing 28-18 at the half. Cedar Hill gutted out a 66-62 victory in the end -- its 15th straight. U-M guard signee Daniel Horton (right) nailed six three-pointers and scored more than half of his team's total points, including 15 of the Longhorns' 20 in the final period, finishing with 34.
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Michigan signee Lester Abram and his Pontiac (Mich.) Northern team have moved back into the No. 1 spot in Michigan on at least one list. Mick McCabe of the Detroit Free Pess ranks the Huskies as the state's top team, ahead of Detroit Redford (No. 2), Rockford (No. 3) and Class C Detroit Rogers (No. 4). Others, however, continue to downgrade the defending Class A champs and preseason consensus No. 1 after its one-point loss to Pontiac Central.
Both Prep Spotlight and Michigan Preps rank Northern No. 2 in the state, behind Rogers, meaning that the Huskies are still the top Class A team on each list. The Detroit News has Northern ranked No. 3 behind Redford and Saginaw High in both Class A and the state overall.
Whether Northern is to repeat as Class A champion is not a matter that will be resolved by the list-makers, though. The Huskies won their state championship on the court last year; if they are to win another, that will also occur on the court, and on Friday they again took to the hardwood to continue their title defense against Southfield-Lathrup.
Abram (right) once again did a little bit of everything for Northern, although he got a big helping hand from David Stephens, who contributed 21 points and 11 rebounds. Abram's totals were similar, as he finished with 19 points and 12 boards in an 80-61 Northern win, with which the Huskies improved to 6-1 on the season.
Michigan's other in-state signee, 6-9 Graham Brown (right) of Mio (Mich.) High School, also has his team ranked. Mio's Class D competition virtually precludes it from being ranked alongside Class A teams among the state's best, but the Thunderbolts' unblemished 7-0 record has it among the best in its classification. The Free Press ranks Mio No. 3 in Class D, and the News ranks the team No. 5.
Anticipating skeptical reactions to his inclusion of the Thunderbolts among his "Teams to watch," Prep Spotlight's Vince Baldwin wrote, "I don't think you know how good Graham Brown really is."
One team that has improved by leaps and bounds over a year ago to rate among the state's best is Detroit Southeastern, which is currently 9-0 and ranked No. 5 overall by Prep Spotlight and Michigan Preps and No. 7 by the News, and No. 8 in Class A by the Free Press. Without question, Southeastern owes its success primarily to a pair of juniors: 6-3 point guard Brandon Jenkins and 6-9 center Walter Waters. On Friday, the two showed just how much they mean to their team, as Waters set a new Southeastern single-game record with 45 points and Jenkins posted a triple-double with 29 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists. Southeastern beat Detroit Kettering 112-95.
Michigan recruiting target Drew Naymick, a 6-10 junior center from North Muskegon, does not have his team ranked, and the Norsemen went in the wrong direction with a 58-54 loss to Western Michigan Christian last Tuesday. Nonetheless, Naymick's numbers were impressive; he nearly posted a triple-double of his own as he finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds and eight blocks.
The Free Press, the News, Michigan Preps and Prep Spotlight all rank the same team as Class C's best: Rogers. And each one also has the same team as the next-best in that classification: Detroit DePorres, led by 6-1 junior point guard Brandon Cotton.
Cotton has put up huge numbers this season as his team has started 9-0. The 25 he scored against Dearborn Divine Child in DePorres' 68-44 win was actually a relatively modest total for him.
The Wolverines have expressed an interest in Cotton, although U-M is not one of the more likely college destinations for him after it signed Horton in the fall. Cotton recently discussed his recruitment with Prep Spotlight and addressed talk that Michigan State is his leader.
"Right now I would have to say they are one of my favorites," he said. "I like a few schools but they are right up there at the top. This is a big decision for me so I'm not going to rush. I can sometimes picture myself playing for Coach Izzo and MSU, but I also think about playing for Coach Pitino and Louisville, or at Georgetown like Iverson." DePorres head coach Durand Sheppard told Prep Spotlight that Cotton's list consists of Michigan State, Duke, Louisville, Kentucky, Georgetown, Purdue, Michigan, Detroit, Penn State and Rutgers.
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U-M head coach Tommy Amaker went to see 6-8 junior power forward Kris Humphries of Minneapolis Hopkins last week while the Wolverines were in Minnesota to play the Golden Gophers. Amaker was not alone according to Prep Spotlight, which reported that Rick Barnes of Texas, Dan Monson of Minnesota and Illinois assistant Norm Roberts were also in attendance. Humphries is among Michigan's top junior recruiting targets.
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Another top target of the Wolverines', 6-8 power forward Will Sheridan of Hockessin (Del.) Sanford, recently discussed his recruitment with EliteHoopRecruits.com. The site reported that Sheridan "has primarilary ACC --Maryland, Duke and (Virginia) -- and Big East schools along with Michigan, Notre Dame and Tennessee on his list."
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