EAST LANSING – Every time Draymond Green visited a Saginaw basketball practice this season, he reminded the current Trojans of the same thing:
The Michigan State and former Saginaw star has two Class A championship rings. They had none.
And he brought that up one more time when he went to dinner with the team Friday night.
He can’t tease them anymore. Saginaw – top-ranked entering the tournament – ended it that way with a 54-42 win over Rockford in Saturday’s Class A Final.
“Now I don’t gotta hear Draymond Green’s mouth saying we don’t have a ring. Now I can take my ring to his face and say, ‘Yes, now we do,’” Saginaw senior Davario Gaines said. “He said (Friday), ‘You’re happy just to be here,’ since we won yesterday. We said, ‘No, we’re not happy to be here.’ We hadn’t won anything yet.
“So now we won.”
The championship is Saginaw’s sixth, and first since 2008, when Green led the Trojans to their second straight. But this title-winner had a different look from those that won under previous Saginaw coaches Lou Dawkins and Marshall Thomas.
Those two sat behind the Trojans’ bench Saturday as first-year coach Julian Taylor guided a team that didn’t have a Green-esque star, but a number of contributors who didn’t get down during the streakiest play of the weekend.
Saginaw jumped out to a 7-0 lead. Rockford countered with 18 straight points. The Trojans came back from that with an 18-6 run to lead 25-24 at halftime.
The score was knotted 40-40 with 5:01 to play. But Saginaw finished on a 14-2 run, scoring the final 11 points of the game.
“You try to control runs and limit them,” Rockford coach Nick Allen said. “Saginaw is a very good team, and obviously we didn’t do a very good job of it.”
The Rams did hit 10 3-pointers, tying for fourth-most in MHSAA boys basketball championship game history. They made 55 percent of their first-half tries from beyond the arc.
But the Trojans turned up the pressure to full-court, and limited mistakes at a level rarely seen. Saginaw had just five turnovers and only nine fouls – and Rockford didn’t get to shoot a free throw.
Senior guard Travontis Richardson led the Trojans with 13 points and junior Julian Henderson had 12. But seven players scored at least four points and six grabbed at least six rebounds.
“We don’t have to have a big player. As long as we have parts to the team, they balance out the floor,” Gaines said. “We played D that they haven’t seen before, probably. We fought hard.”
So did Rockford, just to reach Breslin. Allen also was in his first season coaching after taking over for longtime coach Steve Majerle, who is battling Parkinson’s disease. The Rams entered the postseason unranked, but won seven games to finish 22-6.
Junior Chase Fairchild scored 14 points off the bench Saturday to lead the team for the second straight game. He’s one of seven juniors who won’t be nearly as big a surprise if they make a run again in 2013.
“No one expected us to go all the way to the state championship game,” Rockford junior guard Chad Carlson said. “We got here and played together as a team. It was a great season for us. We just couldn’t get it done.”
Click for box score or to watch the game and press conferences at MHSAA.tv.
PHOTOS: (Top) Saginaw players embrace each other at midcourt after clinching the 2011-12 Class A championship. (Middle) Saginaw sophomore Joseph Williams-Powell (42) sends up a shot above the reach of Rockford senior Ivy Johnson. (See more at Terry McNamara Photography.)