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Wolves hustle for the win



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Zach Collins holds onto possession of the ball. Photo by Larry Wright (click for larger version)
December 14, 2011 - Sophomore Nick Owens gave his teammates a boost in the final quarter of the game against Orchard Lake St. Mary's Prep scoring nine points on his 3-point shots.

Three more points from the Wolves during the quarter concluded the season opener with a win for Clarkston, 60-49.

"We had great hustle," said Owens. " Everyone was doing their job on offense and defense. Defense pretty much won us the game and we made our shots."

It was the first step for Clarkston Boys Varsity Boys Basketball Head Coach Dan Fife's goal for December - to win games before they head into winter break after next week.

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"Always let your team find out who they are and what they need to do and be successful with what they need to do to win," he added. "Get them mental as well as physical shape.

Both teams battled back and forth to grab the lead in the first quarter. With one minute left to go, Tatu sank a 3-point shot to pull the Wolves into the lead.

The Eaglets responded with a field goal shot of their own from senior Justin Barrow to take the lead by one point.

Senior Mitch Baenziger passed the ball to Tatu with 30 seconds left for another opportunity to score but the 3-point attempt did not make it through the net's rim for the points.

The boys came back and a basket from junior Jordan Dasuqi put the Wolves back into the lead.

They scored again when Tatu was sent to the line for two free throws with 4:45 left in the half, scoring both and another one just over a minute later.

They continued to distance themselves and one last 3-point throw from Baenziger put the boys 29-21 before the buzzer.

The Eaglets opened the second half with a three point throw. During their next possession, Clarkston defense forced them to make quick passes as they pressured them further into mid-court.

Clarkston gained possession and Dasuqi scored again to put the Wolves, 33-24.

Baenziger and Tatu led in the remaining five minutes of the third quarter, Tatu putting three points on the board and Baenziger with 12, scoring two 3-pointers in a roll.

"You are only as good as your guards," said Fife. "If your guards are good, you have a chance to be competitive. If they are bad, you are in trouble. Tatu and Baenziger played how they are supposed to play. They have been through it all."

The Eaglets outscored the Wolves 13-12 in the final quarter but it was too little, too late to turn the game around.

"They are a really competitive team," Fife said, adding St. Mary's had only practiced for a few weeks because most of the players just finished their football season as state champions.

"It's always good to play someone competitive like that, who is going to make you play hard and smart; make you think," he said. "I am looking to get our kids to play and in that kind of shape. We haven't beat them a lot so it was a good game for the kids. Whenever you go to an away game and win, it is good."

Baenziger led the game scoring 23 points and scored three field goals. Tatu scored 15 points and was 10-for-14 at the free throw line. Owens added 12 points from his four 3-pointers.

"Owens is a good shooter," Fife added. "It isn't something we haven't seen before. We know he is a good shooter. We are teaching him both ends. We are teaching him good shots and bad shots. He is a confident shooter. We had his older brother, Dan, and he was a good shooter."

He added the team has a lot of outside shooters this year and it showed during the season opener.

"We have a lot of good shooters," Fife said. "For the last couple of years we have been an inside team. We are not really tall to get inside shots. We have to keep trying to take advantage of what we do well."

The boys play their first OAA Red game on Thursday at Farmington Hills Harrison.

"We have to get them ready for division games," said Fife. "First game is Thursday so not much time. You have to start ready to play. The problem was last year we won our first game against St. Mary's and didn't play well for a month and a half. We do not want to overlook anyone."

Then, the Wolves head to Flint Northern on Tuesday before coming home Dec. 22 for their game against Troy Athens.

"It's just another day," Owens said preparing for the next opponent. "It's not about today. It's about tomorrow and knocking down more shots."

JV begins at 5:30 p.m., varsity follows.

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.
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