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BOYS BASKETBALL: Amid sudden loss of star, Bloomfield Hills becomes picture of resolve & punches ticket to final four

   | Scott Burnstein

BOYS BASKETBALL: Amid sudden loss of star, Bloomfield Hills becomes picture of resolve & punches ticket to final four

BLOOMFIELD HILLS – Galvanized by the tumult swirling around its current tournament run, the Bloomfield Hills boys basketball team is pressing ahead unfazed.

Ahead to the Breslin Center in East Lansing and the Class A final four.

Withstanding the sudden loss of all-state senior forward Khalil Gracey, who was dismissed from the club hours before the quarterfinals Tuesday, Bloomfield Hills went out shorthanded and beat a surging Warren Mott squad 74-68 at Calihan Hall.

The Black Hawks (23-3) now turn their attention to the state semifinals and their Friday afternoon match-up with Catholic League-champion Detroit U-D Jesuit.

Sources inside the Bloomfield Hills athletic program say Gracey has had a run-in with the law, an issue that began rearing its head last week during regionals, but didn’t reach dismissal-status until Tuesday afternoon.

Gracey was not present at Calihan Hall to watch his former team compete in the quarterfinals. He had 36 points in the Black Hawks win over Oak Park in the regional semifinals last Monday night and dropped a career-high 42 points in the team’s regular-season finale on the road at Rochester Hills Adams.

Standing tall at the forefront of Bloomfield Hills’ “response unit” unsurprisingly is the Black Hawks dynamic duo of senior captains; all-state center Yante Maten and all-league point guard Armand Cartwright.

They joined forces with searing-hot sixth-man and junior sniper Cameron Dalton, to collectively and quite loudly pick up the slack for the Black Hawks in Gracey’s absence Tuesday against a Mott team that had only lost once since January entering the game.

Maten had another in a long line of gargantuan efforts, posting a robust triple-double of 32 points, 18 rebounds and 10 blocks, while Cartwright expertly controlled tempo, scoring 15 points, dishing six assists, grabbing five rebounds and swiping three steals.

Dalton was on fire again off the bench, scoring 15 points, drilling 4-of-6 from long distance and completing a rare four-point play a little more than midway through the fourth quarter that sprung his team from a three-point deficit into a lead Bloomfield Hills would never relinquish.

Role players like seniors Xzavier Reynolds, Dylan Deitch and Logan McDonald each played strong Tuesday as well. Deitch, a gritty combo guard, is the only former Andover player to start for the Black Hawks this winter. He and Reynolds both nailed big 3s versus Mott in the second half.

Bloomfield Hills head coach Duane Graves is impressed.

“They really handled the highs and lows, the stay focused,” said Graves following Tuesday’s victory. "I’m just so thrilled for these boys, they deserve all of this. No matter what happens from here on out, this team can say we went to Breslin, we made it to the final four, for the rest of their lives. That’s pretty awesome.”

No public school from Bloomfield Hills has ever advanced into the final four in boys or girls basketball. This is the first season following the merger between Andover and Lahser. Graves and the bulk of his rotation came from Lahser, where they had won back-to-back league and district crowns.

“We’re not satisfied, we’re going to keep pushing,” said Dalton in the moments after the final buzzer Tuesday. “We want that state-title ring."