Posted On: 02/12/18 12:40 PM
The Detroit Public School League Playoffs are down to just 4 teams, all with one goal. This is one of the most intriguing ‘Big D’ semifinals in quite some time, as the respective pre-season favorites, Cass Tech and East English Village were both bounced during the quarterfinals. All four semifinal teams in King, Pershing, Renaissance and DEPSA have a legitimate chance to advance to the PSL championship game and no one team is head and shoulders above the other three.
Here’s our breakdown on the 2/13 PSL Semifinals held at Cass Tech:
Semifinal 1 – Cass Tech @5pm
Matchup: King vs. Pershing
Pershing Overview: Pershing is the bigger, more athletic and more talented team. With 6’8 center Johnny Davis protecting the rim, 6’5 forward Jalyn Benning imposing his will and sneaky athleticism in the paint and 6’5 wing Charles Brown knocking down shots from distance, the Doughboys have a huge size advantage at the 3, 4 and 5 spots that could prove pivotal. Offensively, Pershing is a team that likes to push pace after getting defensive stops. The Doughboys are at their best in transition where they can use their athletic abilities in space to exploit one on one matchups. Charles Brown is the key to the halfcourt offense, as he can space the floor from distance while having good playmaking ability off the bounce as both a creator and scorer. Ron Hill is a shotmaking PG that has a nice pull-up jumper and an underrated handle. Paire Hill is a super-sub that can heat up in a hurry from deep while bringing intensity on the defensive end. D’Juan Seal is the guy that may be the X Factor, as he’s an elite rebounder from the guard spot at 6’3 and may be the very best grab and go player in the state. Pershing is not an elite team on the defensive end, but can lock in for stretches when necessary. And when that happens the Doughboys are a very dangerous team with athletes all over the floor that can put up points quickly.
King Overview: King is outmanned on paper, but games aren’t played on paper. Without a doubt, the Crusaders are the toughest team in the PSL and George Ward’s squad simply imposes their will on the opposition more often than not. It all starts with tenacious on-ball defense, and King point guard Jordan Whitford may be the best in the city in that department with great feet and active hands. Senior Antonio Marshall is a rangy defender with great length that disrupts passing lanes and gets a ton of deflections. Drevon Taylor is an undersized post at 6’4, but you won’t notice that on the court. The relentless senior utilizes superior strength and motor to bump the opposition from their spots and bring plus rebounding. John Massey is a versatile defender that can switch on to guards while having the athletic ability to contest shots at the rim. While King is the best defensive team in the city, they can struggle to generate points at times. The Crusaders did receive a big boost on that end from incoming transfer Marcus Gibbs (formerly Cass Tech), who is the best shooter in the PSL when his feet are set. Jordan Whitford is a shifty floor general that can get into the paint and distribute or hit the midrange jumper. Antonio Marshall is perhaps the best college prospect for KC, as he’s a fluid athlete with great length that consistently knocks down shots from distance. Taylor is a great midrange shooter from the baseline and elbow areas that can overpower smaller defenders in the post. John Massey is a good athlete that generates buckets as a baseline finisher and offensive rebounder.
X Factor: Playing at Cass Tech
Prediction: I’ve come to learn that you never underestimate King’s ability to slow down a game and grind out a win under coach George Ward. The Crusaders defense travels with them and is a given at this point and compensates for any offensive shortcomings. Pershing is no doubt the bigger and more talented squad, but as we’ve seen, having that size and talent advantage hasn’t resulted in lopsided wins in their two meetings this year. The Doughboys do have a decided talent advantage but can they lock in for 32 minutes? This game is simply too close to call based on the merits, so we’re going to let history guide us. Both teams have taken the victory on their respective home courts. For that reason we’ll go with Pershing in a close one. The game is being played at Cass Tech, a heated rival of King, so the crowd will no doubt be in favor of Pershing.
Semifinal 2 – Cass Tech @7:30pm
Matchup: Renaissance vs. DEPSA
DEPSA Overview: DEPSA likely has the most talent in the state, with three Division I players and a very high Division II prospect that is trending toward DI in Brian Taylor. The Pioneers probably have the most size in the state as well, with three players in their starting lineup going at least 6’5. That said, DEPSA has a sub .500 record overall and in PSL play. But that W/L is deceiving to a certain extent based on strength of schedule, as the Pioneers have lost to EEVP twice, Hazel Park, UofD and a buzzer beating loss to De La Salle. On Offense, 2018 Central Michigan commit P.J. Mitchell commands the floor as a bull-strong point guard that gets to his spots on the floor and knocks down triples at a good clip. The athletic 6’5 Gary Solomon is a 2018 LIU-Brookyn commit that gets downhill going right and is a physical finisher that can also stretch the floor while having plus vision. The man in the middle is 6’8 Deante ‘Spider’ Johnson, an explosive athlete that is great as a roll-man finisher and can knock down midrange jumpers. The aforementioned 6’6 Brian Taylor has a great looking stroke from distance off the catch and is an athletic finisher at the rim. DEPSA has experienced issues executing against a set defense in the half court earlier in the year, but has made a lot of progress in that area recently. Head man Bo Neely had his Pioneer team hitting on all cylinders versus a great Cass Tech zone defense in the quarterfinals with good spacing and precision passing. DEPSA is a very inconsistent team on the defensive end, as their length and size can be very disruptive, but it is very much a boom or bust proposition with steal attempts in passing lanes that lead to transition opportunities for them or open shots for the opposition.
Renaissance Overview: As I wrote earlier in the year, I expected the Phoenix to make a big leap this year and that has come to fruition. Renaissance lost a whopping 9 games by single digits last year, so coach Vito Jordan fielded a competitive, but young team a year ago. Fast forward to the 2017/2018 season and Renaissance is 5-4 in games decided by single digits, and 5-1 in such contests over the last month. Led by perhaps the best junior tandem in the state in Chandler Turner and Carrington McCaskill, the Phoenix may be coming of age. The offensive point of attack starts with freshman Keon Henderson, a super shifty point guard with great vision that just had his best outing of the season in a high pressure game against East English. The above referenced Chandler Turner is a 6’5 guard/wing that is among the most skilled prospects in the Midwest and scores at all 3 levels. Senior Cortez Garland is a combo-guard with a good looking stroke from distance and has underrated playmaking ability off the bounce. Carrington McCaskill is the most athletic player in the state and has added a reliable 3 ball to compliment his electric finishing ability. 2018 forward Devin Holmes rounds out the starting five for Renaissance and brings post scoring against smaller defenders and offensive rebounding. Holmes is also the defensive sparkplug, brining tons of versatility with the ability to check up to 4 positions on any given night. McCaskill brings great rim protection while Henderson does a good job staying in front of his man. Chandler Turner is a superb rebounder from the wing spot.
X Factor: Free Throw Shooting for Renaissance
Prediction: DEPSA has been in these high-stakes games before, making it to the Breslin last year before falling to Flint Beecher. Being battle tested and experienced falls on the side of the Pioneers. DEPSA also has arguably more overall talent, with 4 players that are DI/DII prospects and size/length all over the court. Renaissance is the new kid on the block, but they are very balanced. With size, shooting, playmaking and defensive versatility they have all the tools, even if depth is lacking. DEPSA plays a boom or bust style of defense and that plays into the hands of Renaissance, a team that just defeated a similar style defense in EEVP. While the Phoenix free throw shooting gives me concern late in the game, I think the Renaissance pulls the mild upset and jumps into the mix as legit contender 1 year early.