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March 27, 2010Lansing - The theme for this year's Kalamazoo Central Maroon Giants was redemption. After a 68-49 win over Detroit Denby, redemption is just a win away.
After a slow start, Kalamazoo Central remained in control throughout their Class A semifinal game played at the Breslin Center Friday afternoon.
The first quarter started off sluggish as both teams seemed to be feeling each other out. Detroit Denby tried to get the ball to their standout Isaiah Sykes, who looked frustrated early. A technical foul was issued to Kalamazoo Central for what appeared to be a mistake in determining their starters. Denby took advantage of the technical and grabbed a quick 6-4 lead with 5:42 left in the 1st quarter. Kalamazoo Central countered with 4 quick points from their big man Darius Norman. The Maroon Giants would close out the first quarter on a 14-5 run and lead 16-11 after the first frame.
The second quarter saw both T.J. Buchanan and Devin Oliver take over for Kalamazoo Central. Oliver was on the receiving end of some great passes from Buchanan and would score six points in the period. Oliver would finish the day with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
Sykes continued to battle and after converting an And-1 opportunity, Denby pulled within 5 at 28-23 with 3:25 left in the half. After some back and forth of baskets traded, Kalamazoo Central would lead 34-27 at half.
Coming out of halftime, Detroit Denby coach Charles Albright tried to get Sykes (16 points) more touches, but while the senior continued to struggle to stay out of foul trouble, Kalamazoo Central became more aggressive to get the ball inside. The Maroon Giants would outscore Denby 50-22 in the paint. Buchanan continued to play a major role, if not scoring then setting up his teammates for easy buckets. At the end of the third quarter, Kalamazoo Central would still lead by seven, 46-39.
The momentum of the quarter the game would change at the 6:46 mark of the fourth quarter. An intentional foul was given to Denby's Eric Hudson after he wrapped up Buchanan on a lay-up attempt. Buchanan would convert both free throws and Kalamazoo Central got possession of the ball. The Giants used an 8-0 run after the foul, prompting Albright to call a timeout. However, the stoppage could not stop Kalamazoo Central or Buchanan's momentum. The rising junior finished with a game-high 24 points and four assists.
"They kind of flipped the script on us out there," Albright said. "They got a lot of easy buckets inside on us and we never had very good defensive rotation. My team is still champions in my eyes, and we have set the blueprint to the foundation of Denby basketball."
Late in the fourth quarter, Kalamazoo Central began to pull away. With just under two minutes remaining, coach Mike Thomas emptied his bench in preparation for victory. "We tried to sag off Sykes a little bit because we knew he doesn't really like to shoot the three ball," Kalamazoo Central coach Mike Thomas said. "He was the focus for our team tonight, and now we are one step closer to making our team goal come true."
The Maroon Giants face Ann Arbor Huron in the Class A final Saturday night.