The Macomb Daily
Sterling Heights gets payback for early-season losses to Lamphere, moves on in MAC tournament
Sterling Heights head coach Jalen Dixon was well aware of what his team was capable of heading into Thursday night’s matchup against Madison Heights Lamphere, which it had lost to twice already this season.
He’s been with pretty much all of his seniors for four years now.
“Funny enough, a lot of those guys were on my freshman team, then I coached them on JV and now on varsity,” said Dixon, who — in his fifth season with the program — has been with this senior group for four years. “I’ve been on them and been on them because I know what they are capable of. In my opinion, if I’m being honest, we should have never lost the first two. This is what we’re capable of, and more.”
Sterling Heights jumped out to early leads in each half, then battled back in the last four minutes to pick up a 58-56 win over the host Rams in the first round of the MAC Silver/Bronze Tournament.
Moments after Lamphere took its first and only lead of the game on a 3-pointer by senior Dayvid Al Sabbagh with 4:43 remaining, the Stallions responded in a big way. Junior Devin Zyczynski drove to the basket to cut his team’s deficit to 54-53. On his team’s next possession, senior Niko Johnson dribbled baseline for the score to give Sterling Heights a 55-54 lead. After forcing a turnover, senior Kyle Hado scored to push the lead to three.
Lamphere senior R.J. Chapman hit a pair of free throws to cut the Stallions’ lead back to a point, but that’s as close as the Rams would get.
“Sterling Heights plays hard,” said Lamphere coach Isaiah Novak, whose team defeated Sterling Heights 59-51 and 44-42 earlier this season. “They were changing up defenses, doing different things than they were doing in the first two games. So we had to make adjustments on the fly. That’s a credit to them.”
The Stallions forced three Lamphere turnovers in its first three possessions and led 6-0 just 1:12 into the game. They extended the lead to 11-2 on a Hado 3 pointer. Lamphere did cut the lead to one at the half, but struggled out of the gate in the third quarter and trailed by six after three quarters.
“We started out the first quarter rough and we started out the third quarter rough,” Novak said. “The beautiful thing is, not only did they correct things, at times, but they did so in a team manner. It wasn’t one guy trying to dribble through, or one guy chucking up shots, but the attempt was to play team basketball and make the right play.”
Lamphere scored the last four points of the third quarter on consecutive steals and layups by seniors Dominic Bolis and Semaj Ramsey, and opened the fourth quarter with six straight to tie the game at 49-49. Al Sabbagh hit a 3, Chapman knocked down two free throws and Ramsey added another to knot things up.
“The thing I hope we take away from tonight is that during the fourth quarter, when we made our run, we did it with five seniors on the court and did it with straight up, tough, man-to-man half-court defense, and we did it with multiple guys scoring,” Novak said. “To me, that’s the formula to success no matter what team you’re playing against.”
Junior guard Colbin Monroe led Lamphere with 16 points, all but one of which
came in the first half. Ramsey scored 13, including the 1,000th of his high school career. Sabbagh had 11 and Chapman added 10 for the Rams (9-10 overall).
Dylan Meza led Sterling Heights with a game-high 18 points. Hodo had 11 and Zyczynski added 10 for the Stallions (7-11), who will now face Madison in the tournament semifinals on Tuesday.
“We came into this game ready. I don’t think they understood that we came to play,” Dixon said. “We knew we were the underdogs, but that’s how we play. Our school doesn’t have the best (basketball) rep, so we’re just doing our best to get our name out there.”