BY WENDI REARDON PRICE
Clarkston News Sports Writer
Clarkston’s cagers jumped to a quick start on their way to their 13th MHSAA Class A Boys Basketball Regional Championship last Thursday against Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, 58-35.
“It’s important for us to come out and make that first initial effort – that first punch,” said senior Foster Loyer, who was named winner of the Hal Schram Mr. Basketball award on Monday afternoon. He added it was doing a lot of the little things Dan Fife, head coach, teaches them every day. “Tonight we came out, threw that first punch and led from the get-go.”
“They have been here before,” added Fife. “They have been in these circumstances so they come out knowing they have to win. It starts with effort mentally and physically.”
The Eaglets opened with the first opportunity to shoot and Lorne Bowman’s attempt missed.
Loyer connected a pass to senior Nick Wells, who scored to put Clarkston on the board and starting a 14-3 run with contributions coming from seniors CJ Robinson, Chase Wasilk, Taylor Currie and Loyer.
Robinson closed the first stanza with a three-pointers, his first of three for the night, which also put him as the 11th player in Clarkston Basketball history to make 100 career field goals. His total is 102 as he holds onto tenth place.
Loyer opened the second quarter with a 3-pointer and another two points from Currie put the Wolves lead to 22-5 before Eaglets’Bowman hit a 3-pointer.
The Wolves scored 16 more points to close the first half, 38-19. They held St. Mary’s to 11 points in the third stanza to hold onto a 49-30 lead going into the final quarter.
“We know we have the bullseye on our back all the time,” said Fife. “I have told our kids don’t be nervous about scoring, be nervous about guarding. With that approach, they don’t put a lot of pressure on themselves having to score. It’s not so much pressure to shoot. The shots they shoot, I am fine with them because I watch them shoot every day and how hard they work. Everybody knows where their shot is coming from.”
Despite the defense pressure from Chizi Nwaopara, Loyer led with 24 points, six assists, seven rebounds and three steals.
“It’s what all the great ones do,” Fife said. “They don’t let anyone take them out of the game – mentally and physically. He knows he is going to get that. Every game he plays, he has a huge bullseye. I have talked to him, not a lot but sometimes, about keeping his composure. He is a great competitor.”
Robinson had 13 points, four steals, five rebounds, four assists; Currie had ten points, 12 rebounds, five blocks; and Wasilk had seven points, five rebounds, three steals and two blocks.
Bowman led St. Mary’s with 18 points.
The Wolves opened the regional tournament with a 71-46 win over Troy on March 12. Loyer led the team with 23 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. Robinson had 22 points, six assists, five rebounds and four steals; Currie had 16 points, 17 rebounds and four blocks; Wells had four points and ten rebounds; and Wasilk had four points, six rebounds and three assists.
Clarkston (23-1) headed to their third quarterfinal in four years against Carman Ainsworth on Tuesday and won the game, 52-31.
“It’s something we have been through. We go in each and every year – that’s our expected outcome,” said Loyer. “It’s not a surprise with all the hard work we put in each and every day at practice, each and every day in the off season is what has gotten us here. We keep standing together and keep playing as a team and a family and we will be okay.”
“I am proud of the way we played and represented our program,” Fife added. “All the young kids can see how hard they play. It helps us in the idea we have had this bullseye, it’s been growing here, for three to four years, and our kids have been playing with a lot of pressure.”
Clarkston plays Warren DeLaSalle in the state semifinals on Friday, 12 p.m. for an opportunity to play in the state championship on Saturday, 12:15 p.m. Both games are in the Breslin Center at Michigan State University.