If you arrived at Don Johnson Field House on Tuesday night only to watch a battle between two Mr. Basketball finalists, you missed a heck of a performance by a heck of a team.
Everett’s Trevor Manuel and Muskegon’s Deyonta Davis had their fair share of moments – many of them in 1-on-1 situations – but all the Everett Vikings stole the show in their 75-52 win to advance to the Class A semifinals against Saginaw Arthur Hill on Friday at Breslin Center.
After a back-and-forth first half in which both teams tried to feel out one another, the Vikings seemed to figure out what to do to win before the Big Reds had a chance to regroup from halftime.
It hinged on performances that didn’t make the box score like Deshae Doll’s sound decision making with and without the ball on offense and defense; Marvin Wright and LeAndre Wright setting up teammates for open shots and making extra passes; and Jamyrin Jackson doing seemingly everything on both ends of the court.
In fact, Jackson was the catalyst for the Vikings’ big run as he started to hit jumpers and throw down some dunks, including an electrifying put-back slam near the end of a 22-9, third-quarter run.
Or maybe it was Doll breaking up a drive on one Muskegon possession and following it up with a pass deflection on the next possession, leading to a basket on the other end.
Or maybe it was Devon Hudson diving off the court for a loose ball – only to have it go off his fingertips and out of bounds just before his teammates pulled him back onto the court, telling him it was okay and they’d “go get ‘em.”
Or maybe it was the coach.
In fact, a lot of it was the coach, but not on Tuesday night, no, before that. Back a while ago, maybe before the season.
At some point, Ferguson decided his team wouldn’t be all about one or two players – even if one of them was a top-level college recruit – and he would tell anyone within earshot not to discount his other players. It was easy to dismiss the notion as coach speak.
There’s a whole team out there, not just two guys who everyone wants to focus on, Ferguson would say.
The two guys everyone wants to focus on. Kind of like the two guys who nearly earned the title of Best High School Basketball Player in Michigan.
If all you saw in Tuesday’s game was the back and forth between Manuel and Davis, you didn’t see the forest through the trees because the forest was there; it was strong; and it wore Viking horns.
That isn’t to say Manuel didn’t have a good game. In fact, he had an outstanding game – particularly in the second half, when he utilized a mix of inside and outside shots to help Everett pull away. Moreover, without Manuel, Davis probably would have eaten Everett’s lunch, but the Vikings’ own Mr. Basketball was there to do his job and helped contain Muskegon's big man while allowing his teammates to flourish on the other end.
But therein lays the difference in how the game was played. Muskegon repeatedly looked to Davis, and Everett – all of Everett – clamped down to disrupt his strong, physical play and not let him get into a groove or get his teammates involved. On the other end, Everett looked all around to find the open man or make the extra pass to an open teammate – whoever that was.
Oh, and the battle of the big men, the showdown between Davis, 2015’s Mr. Basketball, and Manuel, the finalist. Manuel came up the winner in that too, but it was closer than the battle between the teams, which, really, was the battle that mattered.