Milan basketball coach: C.J. Turnage, the 'X-factor' against nationally ranked Romulus
Courtney Sacco | AnnArbor.com
Milan High Schoolbasketball coach Josh Tropea isn't naive about the task that lies ahead for his team on Wednesday. He knows his team will have to be at its absolute best against Romulus to stand a chance in the Class A regional final at Wyandotte Roosevelt High School (7 p.m.).
He also realizes that Romulus will have to play one of it worst games of the year, and that still might not be enough against the roster full of Division I talent.
Tropea and his players are aware of the challenge before them, but one thing he insists they are not: scared.
"One thing I can say for certain about our kids, we will not be intimidated," Tropea said. "We have to play our best game and (Romulus players) have to miss a few shots.
"Our mindset will be let’s get to the fourth quarter," Tropea said. "If it gets close late I imagine it will be them who tightens up."
The reason why Tropea imagines it may be Romulus who buckles under pressure in a late game situation is because this Romulus team isn't supposed to be in any late game situations. Not when you're ranked the No. 20 team in the nation by MaxPreps.com. Not when your roster includes two of the best players in the state in E.C. Matthews, who will play next year at Rhode Island, and Wes Clark, who is headed to Mizzouri.
And don't forget about 6-foot-8 Leo Edwards, who is committed to Louisiana Tech, and Jalon Plummer, himself a major recruit.
"All four of them are ridiculous. Most teams at this point have one or two. It’s easy to focus on one or two," Tropea said, "but when you're talking about the whole roster, it's tough."
Despite arguably the toughest schedule in the state, the Eagles have lost just one game all season, and it was to undefeated Detroit Pershing.
Tropea is quick to praise underclassmen Nick Perkins and Latin Davis, but says it's no mystery who will have to be the star of the night for his team to be successful: C.J. Turnage.
Turnage -- a 6-5 senior guard who averages 19.1 points 7.9 rebounds 1.8 blocks and 2.9 steals per game and is signed to play at Saginaw Valley State -- took the challenge of stopping Jackson Lamb and Bedford personally and Tropea said he needs to do that and more against Romulus.
"He's the X-factor," Tropea said. "Latin and Nick will be great, but this night is going to have to be about C.J. If he has a special night we have a chance."
"He is that special that he can keep us in a game like this. He can score against their athletes," Tropea said. "By no means am I putting pressure on him, it’s just the reality of the situation."