In Play with Tom Markowski

Preston Huckaby leads NorthPointe Christian to its first state final with a gutty performance

Basketball   | Tom Markowski

Preston Huckaby leads NorthPointe Christian to its first state final with a gutty performance

 

 

East Lansing – Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian had a case of the jitters in the program’s first state semifinal.

That’s understandable. Almost every player in moments like this gets a little nervous sometimes.

Preston Huckaby quickly took care of that. The team’s point guard and leading scorer, took it upon himself to show the way physically and emotionally.

NorthPointe Christian’s nervousness lasted the entire first quarter as the Mustangs failed to score on their last eight possessions and trailed, 17-8.

Huckaby scored his team’s first four points of the second quarter and had 11 points in the quarter as NorthPointe quickly got back in the game. Huckaby’s basket with one second left tied the game 26-26 at halftime.

Huckaby scored 12 points in the second half and his two free throws with 19.5 seconds left sealed NorthPointe’s 48-45 victory over Boyne City in a Class C semifinal on Thursday at the Breslin Center.

This was NorthPointe's first semifinal appearance. It lost in the 2007 quarterfinals.

It wasn’t just Huckaby’s 26 points and nine rebounds that made the difference. Huckaby is a four-year varsity player. He represents stability in a relatively new program.

It’s his toughness that separates Huckaby from many who play the game. If there’s a loose ball, he’s diving for it. At 5-11, Huckaby isn’t timid near the basket. He won’t back down from a player five or six inches taller.

And when there’s a charge to be taken Huckaby is first in line. Built like a running back, Huckaby stands his ground when a player drives into the lane.

NorthPointe coach Jared Redell said if statistics were kept on the amount of charges taken in a season Huckaby would be near the top.

It was Huckaby who took a charge with 21.2 seconds left that perhaps was the difference between winning and losing. NorthPointe led 46-45 when Cole Butler drove the left baseline. Butler collided with Huckaby and a charge was called, which nullified the basket.

“He’s probably taken 75 charges in the last three years,” Redell said. “I have confidence he’ll put his body on the line.”

Huckaby said he saw Butler dribble to the baseline and just tried to take away his lane.

“It’s pretty much instincts at that point,” he said.

Huckaby said he and his teammates will enjoy this win and get ready for top-ranked Flint Beecher on Friday.

NorthPointe (21-5) will play Beecher (25-1) for the title on Saturday at 4:30 p.m.

“In the tournament we needed guys to step up,” Huckaby said. “This is the first time in this type of environment. I needed to be more aggressive after that first quarter. I had to pick it up.”