March 12, 2014 - Third time was a charm, as the Wolves snagged the MHSAA District Championship trophy with Friday's win.
Press Kampe passes the ball to an open teammate. Photo by Larry Wright (click for larger version)
"We missed the last two years so it is good to be back," smiled Dan Fife, long-time head coach for the Clarkston Varsity Boys Basketball team.
"We knew we could do it all year," said senior Mike "Phil" Nicholson. "The baskets got the fans involved a lot more which helped us out on defense because it pumped us up."
The momentum and excitement from the Clarkston fans helped the Wolves win the district crown, 62-41, versus Stoney Creek.
Senior Nick Owens opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer, and within the next two minutes, senior Andrew Swanson and junior Dayton Wallis followed with two more of their own.
"It definitely feels good to get the district title back after all the talk there has been we wouldn't get one this year," Owens added. "It feels good to prove people wrong. It feels good just to win it especially coming out in the second half and winning by a huge deficit."
The Wolves began the game with control of the ball but couldn't get past the Cougars defense to score until sophomore Tabin Throgmorton was sent to the line for two shots.
He scored both and from there the battle for control of the board ensued as Stoney Creek would match Clarkston for points.
The Wolves caught a breather with 88 seconds left in the first quarter when Nicholson scored on a basket to put Clarkston ahead by six points. It only lasted a moment as the Cougars scored four points to end the quarter, 16-14.
The close battle continued the second quarter with the Wolves ending the first half with a two-point lead again, this time 27-25.
"The first half we played slow and we knew we could play better than that," Nicholson added. "In the second half we played like we should."
"Stoney took it to us a little bit," Fife added. "They out competed us towards the end of the first half. Their defense played well. Phil didn't get a lot of touches and a lot of their baskets were outside. Fortunately our kids fought back and started competing. Our kids have been like that all year. You never know what they will do."
The second half opened with a 3-point shot from Owens off a pass from Throgmorton. Owens attempted another field goal but it fell short.
Stoney Creek answered with their own 3-pointer but three points from Throgmorton and two points from junior Andrew Myers widened the distance on the board. The Wolves closed the third quarter with a 7-point lead, 39-32.
"We had more energy," Owens added about the difference in the second half. "We were pushing the ball, focused more, getting stops on defense and rebounding."
Nicholson agreed, "we were rebounding and doing things we should. We got stops when they took shots."
The fourth quarter opened with nine points off three field goals from Owens, Swanson and Wallis.
"It was a huge difference," Fife said. "That's what broke their backs - right there with three in a row."
"It was a huge jump kick," Owens added. "It helped seal the deal."
Sophomore Mitch Heaton attempted one more shot as the clock counted down the last 30 seconds. After the ball rounded the rim and went through the net, the game closed 62-41.
Myers led the team with 15 points and was 11-for-13 on the free throw line. Owens scored 13 points and Throgmorton added 11 points to the score.
The last time the Wolves won the district crown was in 2011, making it the 18 consecutive years for the program. The last time they won the regional crown was 2009, when they made it to the Final Four.
MHSAA Regional semifinals for the Wolves (19-4) was set for Monday, against Troy Athens.
"Clarkston has been there before," Nicholson said. "We know how good we are and some teams don't know it yet."
Fife added the Wolves played Athens at the beginning of the season in a scrimmage.
"They have a really big guard and they are strong," he said. "It will be a tough game."
Clarkston beat Troy Athens and moves on to play on Wednesday in the finals against Bloomfield Hills at Southfield-Lathrup, 5:30 p.m.
The Wolves have already played Bloomfield Hills twice in the season and lost both times. If faced against them the third time, the goal is to beat them.
"We just have to come out with energy and focus on defense first to make a run," Owens added.
Wendi graduated from the University of Michigan-Flint with a degree in communications. She wrote for the Michigan Times college paper and Grand Blanc View before joining The Clarkston News in October 2007. Follow Clarkston sports on Twitter @CNewsWRSports.