By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
EAST LANSING – Saginaw Arthur Hill's run to this season's Class A championship game has been the result of strong on-court performances – but with a boost from a pair of behind-the-scenes conversations as well.
For the first meeting, coach Greg McMath invited all of his players except standouts Eric Davis and Brian Bowen, and told the other 10 how much more was needed from them for the Lumberjacks to contend for their third MHSAA title.
The second came during halftime of Friday’s Semifinal against Lansing Everett. Davis, a senior and this season’s Mr. Basketball runner-up, had scored 16 points to give Arthur Hill a three-point lead at the break. He told Bowen, arguably the top sophomore in the state, that the second half belonged to him.
Bowen scored 10 points over the final two quarters and four Lumberjacks scored at least 11 points total as they broke away for a 73-61 win over the Vikings at the Breslin Center.
“Coach said to go out there and have fun, and really there wasn’t too much to say,” said Davis, who will play next season at the University of Texas. “I talked to Brian, said big-time players make big-time plays. The first half was my half; this half will be your half. He’s the number one player in the country in my eyes, and I think he proved that in the second half.”
Arthur Hill will face top-ranked Detroit Western International in the noon Class A Final on Saturday. The No. 6 Lumberjacks (24-3) faced and fell to both this season, but have made significant strides over the last six weeks since suffering the last of their three defeats.
Davis finished with 20 points and six assists Friday and Bowen had 15 points, but they were matched by junior Billy Burton with 18 points and senior forward De’Quevion Johnson’s 11 points, nine rebounds and six assists.
Johnson had nine of his points and Burton his final 11 during the second half.
“If I was coaching against us, it would be to stop these two,” McMath said of Davis and Bowen. “I had a meeting with the other 10 guys on the team, with these guys not being there. I told them if we’re going to make a run and win a state championship, it’s going to be on you guys. (Davis and Bowen) get the press, and they deserve it. But that’s how much better we’ve gotten from the beginning of the season as a team.”
Everett led by at many as seven points while maintaining control for most of the first 13 minutes. But recalling disappointing third quarters in season-ending losses the last two seasons to rival Saginaw, McMath prepped his team this winter to make third-quarter runs.
The score Friday was last tied, 28-28, with 2:21 to go in the second quarter. From that point, Arthur Hill built a 13-point lead over the rest of the half and third quarter.
Eight points during that Lumberjacks run came on dunks as Arthur Hill sped up the pace and made extra passes to find open teammates cutting to the hoop. Ten of the team’s 16 fast-break points came during the second half.
“We did a poor job getting back on transition defense. On missed shots, sometimes we were going for too many steals in the backcourt, allowing dunks and not reacting on defense,” Everett coach Desmond Ferguson said. “It was a poor night for us defensively … and (defense) is what we hang our hat on.”
The No. 9 Vikings (24-3) can hang their hats on an improvement from 5-16 only a year ago. A sizable reason for the turnaround was the addition of senior center Trevor Manuel, who returned to Lansing after a year out of state and finished third in the Mr. Basketball voting. But three others scored in double figures Friday, and the strength of that supporting cast was as significant a reason behind this winter’s run.
The 6-foot-9 Manuel, who will continue at the University of Oregon, finished with 15 points and 16 rebounds. But junior guard Jamyrin Jackson was the team’s leading scorer with 16 points, senior guard Deshae Doll had 11 and junior guard Leandre Wright scored 10 and grabbed eight rebounds.
Click for the full box score and video from the press conference.
PHOTOS: (Top) Arthur Hill's’Willie Rodgers makes one of his three blocks during Friday’s Semifinal win over Lansing Everett. (Middle) The Lumberjacks’ Eric Davis works to get past Everett’s Leandre Wright.