Willow Run boys basketball advances to Class C regional final
As Hudson guard Adam Laughlin dribbled the ball up court, Willow Run’s McKenzie Dunlap poked the ball from behind into the hands of Johnny Brown. Streaking up court, Dunlap caught a half court pass from Brown and laid the ball in for two of the easiest points he would ever score.
That steal was one of the more than 30 turnovers Willow Run would force in a 61-44 win over Hudson Monday night. With the win, Willow Run advances to Wednesday's Class C regional final at Manchester High School.
“I thought we could’ve gave a little more effort, but we got the win, I’ll take it, I can’t complain too much,” said Willow Run coach Anthony Davis.
Entering the second quarter, the Flyers trailed 9-8. Three minutes later, they were leading 22-12 and never looked back.
The Tigers turned the ball over 21 times in the first half and while Davis was happy with the result, he felt his team could have done more defensively.
“We could’ve played a little better on defense. A lot of their turnovers weren’t caused by us,” Davis said.
Jamal Poplar had a game-high 14 points while Dunlap and NyShaun Marks chipped in with 11 and seven points, respectively. Collectively, 10 different players scored for the Flyers.
“That’s the key, we have to play together. We weren’t doing that early in the season. The last three games of the regular season going into districts, they started listening to me,” said Davis, who took over as coach in January for George Woods. “We’re better when we all get some as I tell them. Use your teammates on offense and defense.”
Despite the inordinate amount of turnovers, the Flyers only led 30-20 at the half and allowed Hudson to hang around. The Tigers used some backdoor cuts and screens to chip away at the lead and keep themselves in it.
That all changed, according to Poplar, once Willow Run (12-12) switched to a 2-3 zone. With the zone in place, the Tigers began to struggle getting to the basket.
“We should have denied the ball more, but we played good tonight,” Dunlap said.
Hudson cut the lead to 42-34 at one point, but Willow Run never let the Tigers get any closer, entering the fourth quarter with a 44-34 lead. Willow Run put the game away with a 15-2 run to start the fourth.
The win gave Willow Run its first regional victory since 2001, when it advanced to the state quarterfinal as a Class B team. Davis was proud of his team’s effort, but reminded his players that the road only gets bumpier from here.
“I think our focus needs to get a little better and I told them, the further you go, the tougher it gets,” Davis said
Willow Run will face River Rouge in Wednesday's regional final (7 p.m.). The teams met earlier this season with the Flyers losing 67-61 at River Rouge.
Poplar is excited at the prospect of revenge.
“Ah man, we want another shot. I want to beat this team so bad,” Poplar said.
Contact Matt Durr at firstname.lastname@example.org