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Avondale makes late 3-pointer and upsets West Bloomfield to forge a tie for first in the OAA Blue

Basketball   | Dan Tallant

Avondale makes late 3-pointer and upsets West Bloomfield to forge a tie for first in the OAA Blue

West Bloomfield — The players and coaches at the two competing schools knew the stakes.

Auburn Hills Avondale senior Chris Barton called it the biggest game of the season, and on Tuesday it was his late 3-pointer that provided the crushing blow to first-place West Bloomfield on the Lakers’ home court.

A rematch between the Oakland Activities Association Blue Division’s best teams to either grant West Bloomfield a strong hand in capturing the title or, with an Avondale win, tie up the league race with just a handful of conference games remaining.

Needing a victory to keep the first-place Lakers (13-2, 5-1) within reach, Avondale (13-3, 5-1) executed late, gutting out a 67-66 win.

“Right now, we’re playing for a division, and they were in our way,” Avondale coach Tim Morton said. “It was a great high school game, so I’m proud of our guys and the way we hung together… It was a great team victory tonight.”

Barton’s dagger came with 44 seconds left, when the Yellow Jackets trailed — like it had for nearly the entire second half — 66-64. Morton drew up the play to get Barton a shot from the wing, and his 6-foot-1 senior made the shot.

“My teammate set a good screen for me, my other teammate found me, I just set my feet and knocked it down,” Barton said after the game. “This was the biggest game of the year, and it was great for us to get the win.”

Time remained for West Bloomfield to fire back with a go-ahead basket, but the Lakers couldn’t break through Avondale’s tough and quick defense, something that Morton thought his team did well all night long.

“Our defensive effort was great,” he said. “We made them earn their points. They didn’t get anything easy in the second half. And you have to give them credit. They execute really well over there.”

Lakers’ junior Trishton Jackson did everything he could to try and help West Bloomfield hang on against Avondale. He scored 17 of his 21 points in the second half, but Barton and the Jackets answered every single one of West Bloomfield’s seemingly big shots.

To combat Jackson’s 17 second-half points, Barton delivered 15 of his 22 points over the final two quarters to lift Avondale.

“I had to step up my game in the fourth quarter because I wasn’t happy with how I played in the first half,” Barton said. “I knew that my team needed me, so I had to step up.”

The game played out exactly as both sides expected, with each possession proving to be more important than the last down the stretch.

“We knew that no one was going to have a big lead tonight,” Morton said. “It was going to be like a heavy-weight fight. You have to take jabs, and you try to be the one to deliver the knockout punch down the stretch.

A game like this certainly helps to prepare a team for the state playoffs, but in the middle of a league race, West Bloomfield coach Jeremy Denha was definitely disappointed to not come away with the win.

“I don’t think I had us prepared like we needed to be,” he said. “There were opportunities at the end, but it’s a tough loss. We battled tonight, but it’s tough.”

For West Bloomfield Gervon Winn added 17 points and Zach Allread chipped in with 13.