February 17, 2002

March Madness Is in the Air

Imagine if Saturday's showdown between Cedar Hill (Tex.) High School and Dallas Lincoln had been a "real" game. As it was, the "playoff warm-up game" between the No. 1 teams in Texas' Classes 5A (Cedar Hill) and 4A (Lincoln) helped draw 17,531 fans to Dallas' Reunion Arena for the three-game Dallas Morning News Basketball Classic.

The game did not count toward the standings, but there was no question that there was a world of pride on the line when 33-0 Lincoln met 30-1 Cedar Hill. Lincoln came into the game ranked No. 1 in the nation by both USA Today and School Sports, while Cedar Hill was ranked No. 8 by USA Today and had moved up to No. 2 in School Sports' national rankings. Because they are in different classifications and will not meet in the postseason, Saturday presented the teams with their lone shot at one another.

Horton2 (Story)In addition to the hype surrounding the two teams, the game also showcased two of the top seniors in the country, Cedar Hill's 6-3 Michigan signee, Daniel Horton (right), and Lincoln's 6-10 center Chris Bosh, a Georgia Tech signee. Horton is ranked among the top 10 players nationally by Fox Sports, the All-Star Report and Hoop Scoop, while Bosh is in the top 10 of Prep Spotlight, Rivals Hoops and the All-Star Report.

One of Cedar Hill's biggest concerns entering the game was how to contain Bosh, who towers over even the biggest of the Longhorns' players. "Cedar Hill is good, but they don't have an answer for Bosh," Indiana signee Bracy Wright of The Colony High School, which also participated in the Morning News Classic, told iHigh.com. "He's going to kill them and is going to be the reason why they win."

But Horton saw things a little differently, and wanted to make sure that Bosh knew it, according to the Morning News. "Chris, this is Daniel," Horton told Bosh at 7:00 Wednesday morning. "Just wanted you to know I'm calling you every morning this week to remind you how bad we're going to beat you."

By the time the dust cleared, with the scoreboard reading 64-63, both Wright and Horton had been proven wrong. Bosh did not "kill" Cedar Hill, finishing with 16 points, but the Longhorns did not beat Lincoln. In fact, they had to scrap down the stretch just to get back into a position to win.

A 12-8 Lincoln lead after one quarter turned around by halftime as Cedar Hill edged in front, 24-23. In the third quarter, Lincoln outscored the Longhorns 28-17 to take a 10-point lead, which it still held at the 5:31 mark. Cedar Hill clawed back to within one, and had two chances to win in the closing seconds, but the first resulted in a missed jumpshot and the second ended with Bosh stealing an inbounds pass with 1.6 seconds remaining.

Horton led all scorers with 22 points. After the game, he was not ready to concede superiority to Lincoln. "I think it's unsettled," he told the Morning News. "I think everybody knows the better team didn't win."

Considering that Cedar Hill had played 24 games since the last time Horton did not walk away the winner, his reluctance is understandable. Earlier in the week he had knocked down four three-pointers to finish with 27 points as the Longhorns wrapped up the regular season with an 85-63 defeat of Arlington High School.

Horton finished regular-season play with averages of 23.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.9 steals per game. He shot 48.1 percent from the field, including 38.7 percent from three, and hit 72.0 percent of his free throws.

Cedar Hill now moves on to the Class 5A playoffs, where another anticipated matchup awaits. Ever since The Colony went on a tear in the final minute of a game to knock Cedar Hill out of last year's playoffs, the Longhorns have been dying to get revenge. The Colony is 28-2 and ranked No. 2 in 5A, and since the two teams are in the same region of the state, if their paths cross, it will be in one of the earlier rounds.

* * *

One sure sign that the postseason is right around the corner is the fact that teams are losing games, but rising in the rankings. Strange as that may seem, when all the top teams are losing, somebody has to stay at the top.

There was an unmistakable scent of March Madness in the air this past week in Michigan, as five of the top six teams in last week's Detroit News and Detroit Free Press Class A rankings lost. Detroit Martin Luther King beat both Detroit Southeastern and Detroit Redford; Pontiac Central beat Pontiac Northern; Saginaw High beat Pontiac Central; Pontiac Northern beat Saginaw.

When all was said and done, Michigan Preps anointed Saginaw its new No. 1 team in the state, up from No. 6 a week ago. The Free Press went with Rockford, which is 17-0 but has not played the competition that some of the other top teams have. Pontiac Northern moved up both lists, to No. 7 in the state in Michigan Preps' rankings and No. 6 in the state, No. 5 in Class A per the Free Press.

Abram1 (Story)Northern avenged one of its two early-season losses when it defeated Clarkston High on Feb. 8. On Feb. 12, the Huskies sought to avenge the other against Pontiac Central, but it was not to be. Central senior Lamar Searight, the younger brother of former Wolverine Maurice Searight, scored 32 to lead his team to an 85-81 win and the city championship. Michigan signee Lester Abram (right) led Northern with 27 points.

The two Pontiac teams had scheduled back-to-back games against Saginaw High on Friday, Feb. 15 and Saturday, Feb. 16. If Northern could not get back at Central by winning a head-to-head matchup, then the next-best thing would be for Saginaw to beat Central and Friday and Northern to beat Saginaw the next day.

The Huskies got their wish. Saginaw, led by Florida guard signee Anthony Roberson, took out Central on Friday. Saturday's game presented a marquee matchup between two of the state's top three seniors.

Abram and Roberson thrived in the spotlight. Roberson led the Trojans with 30 points, but he missed 16 field-goal attempts to get there. Abram went two better on him, though, posting totals of 32 points and 12 rebounds to lead his team to a 78-67 win. Afterward, he downplayed the individual showdown.

"It wasn't against Anthony," Abram told the Detroit News, "this was against Saginaw. Our last game, we lost a heartbreaker to Pontiac Central, a game we felt we should have won. We just wanted to come out and play and play smarter."

The win lifted Northern to 13-3 on the year, matching its record at the same point a year ago, when it went on to claim the Class A state championship. Roberson noted one difference between the two games, though. "Last year, we beat them in the regular season, but they won it all," he told the Oakland Press. "They got the glory at the end. It's just something I just hope I can see at the end (this year)."

As the Trojans pursue that goal, they may well have the Huskies cross their path again.

* * *

Detroit Redford's loss to Detroit Southeastern ended its run at No. 1 in the state, and may also knock Redford out of the national rankings of SchoolSports.com (No. 16) and USA Today (No. 19), in which it was the lone Michigan team.

Redford opened the Detroit Public School League playoffs with an impressive 48-34 defeat of Renaissance High School. Junior Dion Harris, a top recruiting priority of Michigan's, struggled early for Redford, scoring just five first-half points as his team was held to 16.

Renaissance held a 25-16 lead in the third quarter before Harris single-handedly outscored Renaissance 7-0 to draw the Huskies to within two. That stretch was just the beginning of a 28-5 run that put the game away for Redford. Harris led all scorers with 17 points as the Huskies improved to 15-1.

With the win, Redford advanced to a PSL semifinal meeting with Martin Luther King High School, which upset Southeastern High School in the schools' quarterfinal matchup. Southeastern had come into the game with a perfect 14-0 record, but King jumped all over the Jungaleers from the opening tip and held them off down the stretch.

King claimed a 31-16 advantage at halftime, and hung on for a 61-47 win despite a 19-point second half (and 14-point fourth quarter) by junior point guard Brandon Jenkins, a serious target of U-M's. Jenkins led all scorers with 22 points, but could not prevent his team's elimination from the PSL playoffs and its first loss of the year.

King continued to revel in the role of the underdog against Redford. After playing the Huskies tough in the first half, which ended with Redford holding a narrow 22-21 lead, King took advantage of foul trouble for Harris in the second half. Harris' third foul, with 3:25 remaining in the third quarter, was followed about a minute later by his fourth. Although he finished with 19 points to lead all scorers, he was not on the floor when his team needed him most, and Redford fell to King, 57-50.

* * *

Flint (Mich.) Northwestern has lost far too many times this season for its 74-57 loss to Orchard Lake St. Mary's on Tuesday to qualify as an upset. With Northwestern 5-12 and unranked, the game had no implications for any state standings except OLSM's No. 7 position in the Class B rankings of the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News. U-M target Olu Famutimi led the Wildcats in scoring with 18 points in defeat.

Famutimi helped his team achieve a much more positive result in its next game, against Midland Dow. Northwestern had lost six straight since winning its last game against Dow and managed to end the skid in the teams' Friday meeting. Behind 34 points and 14 boards from Famutimi, a 6-6 forward, the Wildcats outscored Dow 23-14 in the final quarter to break a 46-46 tie after three.

* * *

BrownG (Story)Michigan will look much different in the post a year from now. Although the Wolverines are very thin inside, with 6-9 senior Chris Young the only true big man, they have at least been able to rely on Young as their most consistent performer.

Next year U-M will trade experience and, in all likelihood, consistency, for depth, welcoming three big freshmen: 6-10, 240-pound center Amadou Ba; 6-9, 250-pound center/power forward Graham Brown (right); and 6-11, 205-pound power forward/center Chris Hunter. Both the Detroit News and the Michigan Daily recently took a look into the Wolverines' post future.

"Brown, who has put on 28 pounds in a year, or Ba probably will start at center next season," suggested the News.

"Chris has to put on some weight, but he's still growing," Hunter's Gary (Ind.) West Side coach, John Boyd, told the News. "His doctor thinks he'll grow to 7-2. But he's not a center. He's a power forward or small forward and he'll cause matchup problems."

"He's a kid I really think improved his level of play this season and improved his stock," U-M head coach Tommy Amaker told the News. "He's very skilled, but he's not powerful. He can step out and shoot, handle the ball and pass. He's in the mold of a Brian Cook (Illinois' 6-10 junior). I'm not trying to say he's Brian Cook. Brian Cook is a great player and he's a junior in college. Brian Cook is more of a skilled, finesse frontline player. And Chris is out of that mold.

"Ba is a powerful big guy and so is Graham. Graham really sees the floor and can pass for a big man. Ba is not as skilled, but he gives us a little bit of the bulk we need down low."

"They said I can come in next year and play right away if things go well," Brown told the Daily. "They need a big guy real bad like Chris Young, and I think I can be that."

Offering his opinion on the comparison, Young told the Daily, "Is he another Chris Young? I don't know. He'll probably be better. He's only 18, but he's just as big and strong as I am now. You could look at us and think we're brothers."

"He can play right away," Hoop Scoop's Clark Francis said to the Daily, of Brown. "Is he going to be great? I don't know. But in a year or two he can be a heck of a player."

Fair or not, the Wolverines and their fans will ask Brown -- and all of his classmates -- to accelerate that timetable as much as possible.

To see the full article from the News, click here. The Daily article can be found here.

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