In Play with Tom Markowski

Winston scores 20, U-D overcomes inconsistencies to down Beecher, 59-48

Basketball   | Tom Markowski

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Detroit – U-D Jesuit didn’t play it best on Sunday. The Cubs turnovers in the first quarter, missed too many free throws and didn’t shoot well overall.

Coaches don’t want their teams to peak in December so maybe, in the end, U-D’s sub-par performance is a good in the long run.

Cassius Winston had just four points at halftime but he and his teammates picked up the pace in the fourth quarter and the Cubs defeated Flint Beecher, 59-48, as part of the “Battle of the Best” at Detroit Cass Tech.

Winston scored 12 of his 20 points in the fourth and the Cubs finally pulled away from the Bucs.

Beecher (3-1), the defending Class C champions, was coming off of a huge win on Saturday and the Bucs fell behind 17-2 before giving U-D a test. Less than 24 hours before Beecher defeated No. 4-ranked Detroit English Village Prep, 72-69, as part of the Horatio Williams Tip-Off Class at Detroit Edison.

Winston is the state’s top-rated player but he didn’t play up to his preseason ranking for much of the game. What Winston did do was keep his poise. He didn’t force many shots and in the fourth he took over.

“(My) shot wasn’t falling,” he said. “It’s just one of those things. (Beecher is) scrappy. They play with a lot of confidence.

“We’ve got to come out and dominate. We can’t play to other people’s competition. We’ve got to take it to them.”

U-D (3-0), the state’s top-ranked team, led all the way but was unable to put the Bucs away until the final minute.

Delon Willis’ basket to open the fourth brought Beecher to within 36-34.

Twice U-D increased its lead to seven and with 3:17 remaining Winston’s two free throws gave the Cubs their largest lead of the second half, to that point, 49-41.

A Malik Ellison 3-pointer pulled Beecher to within 49-44 with 2:30 left but the Bucs got no closer.

Ellison led Beecher with 24 points and he was nine-of-10 from the free throw line. Aquavius Burks added 10 points.

Free throws was a part of the game that’s troubled U-D this. In an earlier game the Cubs were 11-of-20 (55 percent). U-D was 15-of-26 (57.7 percent) against Beecher. The Cubs did convert eight of their last 10.

“Free throws are mental,” Winston said. “We haven’t focused well in that area.”

Beecher was able to neutralize, for the most part, U-D’s tall Nigerians. Ike Eke saw limited playing time in the second half and had just two points. Greg Eboigbodin had nine including two dunks in the decisive fourth quarter.

U-D freshman point guard Julian Dozier had 11 points.

Despite a marquee player like Winston, U-D is a team comprised of mostly underclassmen and the season is still quite young.

Those in attendance, which included Xavier coach Chris Mack and Detroit Mercy coach Ray McCallum, could see there’s much room for improvement.

For Beecher coach Mike Williams the last two days was all about giving his team a test. Playing back-to-back days against two of the state’s top teams can only make the Bucs better.

“You never want to blame anyone other than yourself,” Williams said. “But we had some calls go against us.

“We came out flat after winning a big game. We got back into it, and that was good. What we’ll take away is we came out and played with composure. You expect us to come out flat after Saturday. We know our identity. We know we can play with anyone.”