EAST LANSING — Detroit Cass Tech took home the Division 1 state championship trophy with a 78-63 victory over Muskegon, but a postgame ice bath would have been a nice prize too.
Players from both teams were banged up in the extremely physical contest, as it was rare for anyone to get to the hoop unchallenged. It got so that the quickest way to advance the ball up the court was to be gifted free throws — 29 of which were attempted in the fourth quarter alone.
The difference was that while Muskegon scored one free throw at a time, Cass Tech supplemented its charity-stripe makes with six baskets down the stretch while crashing the hoop. Travon Cooper had three of those, with an and-one for good measure with 25 seconds to play.
Cooper and Darius Acuff led Cass Tech (27-1) with 19 points apiece while Kenneth Robertson was close behind with 15. Muskegon (26-3) had four players in double figures: Briggs (19), Day (15), Anthony Sydnor (13) and Watson (12). Briggs has signed with Wayne State while Sydnor is headed to Ferris State.
Muskegon actually had a 47-46 lead with 10 minutes remaining, but Acuff closed the third quarter with a couple of clutch plays and the Technicians didn’t look back. First, he muscled his way to the hoop and scooped the ball in to reclaim the lead. On the next possession, he fired a no-look pass to Cooper lurking under the hoop, and that basket gave Cass a 50-47 lead to start the fourth quarter.
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The bonus was on both ways by the opening minute of the fourth quarter, and true to the physical nature of the game, both teams spent a fair amount of time remaining at the free-throw line. Both teams committed two offensive fouls early in the fourth, one of which was the fifth assessed to Cass Tech freshman Corey Sadler with 6:29 to play.
But Cass was able to absorb his absence, scoring on all but two of is last 16 possessions.
Cass Tech got the early advantage with a 12-0 run in the first quarter, taking a double-digit lead when Acuff made a three from beyond the top of the key six minutes into the game.
It didn’t help Muskegon that it misfired on eight consecutive possessions, and it took about a quarter for Muskegon’s 3-point shots to start falling. The Big Reds missed their first seven before Justin Watson beat the buzzer at the end of the first, setting the score at 14-11 Cass Tech. Watson’s next 3-pointer, 30 seconds later, tied the game at 16.
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Cass Tech was stronger on the boards in the second quarter, getting seven second-chance baskets en route to a 27-20 advantage in the quarter. The Technicians scored following an initial miss in their last four possessions of the half, hiking the lead back to 41-31 by the break.
However, Cass’ lead was gone six minutes later, after Watson again drained a 3-pointer to put the Big Reds up 47-46. Briggs had two more 3s during the stretch. From there, the Technicians turned up the heat to claim their first state championship.
It was the fourth state championship won by Cass Tech coach Steven Hall. He also won three Class D titles in a row from 2003-05 at the now-closed Detroit Rogers.