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Grand Rapids Christian pulls away from Romulus in the second half to advance to Class A Final

Basketball   | Jeff Dullack

Grand Rapids Christian pulls away from Romulus in the second half to advance to Class A Final

East Lansing – One of the things that Mark Warners appreciates most about his talented Grand Rapids Christian team is its unselfishness and willingness to share the ball and that was on display on Friday afternoon in the Class A semifinal against Romulus.

The Eagles recorded an assist on 22 of their 31 field goals made on Friday and while Romulus limited Xavier Tillman, Christian’s best player, who is committed to Michigan State, to just five points, senior James Beck finished with a game-high 24 points to lead Christian to a convincing 74-52 win.

With the win, the Eagles advance to the Class A Final where Christian (27-0) will face Clarkston, who defeated West Bloomfield in the first semifinal of the game of the day on Friday, on Saturday afternoon at 12:00pm at the Breslin Center.

Warners credited Beck’s play, particularly in the first half, for keeping Christian in the game early on, but also praised his team’s unselfish play throughout Friday's game.

“He did keep us in it and what he does, he gets the points where it’s an offensive rebound and it’s a putback or he gets an and-1 on the break and he makes the free throw or he gets the dump down from a guard or from Xavier,” he said. “He can score it around the rim in so many different ways, that’s a really nice thing to have. Xavier said it, you don’t know who’s going to score and with these guys, what’s been great all year is that they don’t care. Xavier took three shots today and he’s one of the happiest guys in the locker room.”

Coming out of halftime trailing 28-27, Christian opened the third quarter on a 15-3 run behind eight points from Beck to take a 42-31 lead with less than 2:45 left to play. The Eagles would then push their lead to 16, 52-36, following a 3-pointer from junior Duane Washington as time expired in the third quarter.

Warners said that he felt the difference for his team in the second half was the defensive play from his guards, who did a better job of containing Romulus’ 3-point shooters in the final 16 minutes.

“We just said that these were the guys that you have to pay more attention to,” he said. “I think the problem that we had is that our guards were needing too much help, so it wasn’t the guy with the ball who was shooting it, it was because we had help and then they kicked. So we challenged our guards and said ‘Don’t need the help’, and they did a lot better of a job in the second half.”

Beck (Signed with Oakland) also tallied nine rebounds to go with his 24 points, while Washington chipped in with 15 points and six assists in the win for Christian. Despite being held to just five points, Tillman took just three shots in Friday’s game and also had six assists.

Romulus (21-5) would erase a 25-20 deficit late in the first half as 3-pointers from Kaevon Merriweather and Jaren English helped put Romulus ahead 28-27 at halftime.

Romulus coach Jerrett Smith said that while his team did have some success shooting the ball in the first half, Friday was one of his team’s worst shooting performances of the season.

“Looking at the stat sheet, we’ve never shot 8-for-26 from the 3-point line,” he said. “It was a tough shooting game for us, we pride ourselves on hitting shots this year, if we can’t hit shots, it’s over. Especially when they got a kid that’s 6-8, 260 in the middle of the lane and it’s very hard to get him out of the lane if you’re not hitting your shots. I thought in the first half we did a good job of getting him out and he had to chase us a little bit when we were hitting shots.”

Merriweather scored a team-high 18 points to lead Romulus, while English contributed 17 points in the loss.