Posted On: 03/9/18 11:09 PM
Okemos didn’t lead in this game until the middle of the fourth quarter, but when they got the lead, they didn’t give it up. The Chieftains defeated Mason by a final score of 58-46 and will take on Coldwater in the Regional Semifinal on Monday. Okemos was led by senior guard Jordan Henry and junior forward Evan Thomas. The duo combined to score 29 points and grab 13 rebounds. Mason was led by junior forward Noah Anderson, who had 16 points and six rebounds.
Mason did a good job of limiting Henry’s production in the first half, as he scored just six points. However, down the stretch, Henry dominated. With the game tied, Henry lined up a deep three and drilled it while getting fouled to give the Chieftains a four point lead. Moments later, he drove down the middle of the lane and finished a tough layup while getting fouled, giving his team a seven point lead in a matter of seconds. To cap off his incredible fourth quarter, Henry came away with a game clinching steal with under a minute to go. He finished the game with 17 points.
Losing Elijah Sanford and Dezmond Davis is going to hurt, but having Noah Anderson, Garren Lattig, Alex Jordan and Ben Brown returning will help ease the blow. Sanford was outstanding for the Bulldogs, pouring in nine points and grabbing nine rebounds, while Davis chipped in four points and five rebounds off of the bench. Anderson, Lattig, Jordan and Brown combined to score 30 of Mason’s 46 points. Having that amount of production returning is huge, especially for a team that was a few defensive stops away from a district championship this season.
Like Mason, Okemos is going to be just fine heading into next season. Pruitt is a good scorer that gets everyone on the floor involved. On top of getting everyone involved on offense, he is an excellent defender, thanks to his lateral quickness and fast hands. Against Mason, he had eight points, two rebounds and a few steals. He is ranked as Prep Hoops’ No. 22 overall prospect in the state of Michigan for the class of 2020. Thomas’ versatility is a great asset for Okemos. He is 6-foot-3, but he plays bigger than his size. He is very good at finishing around the rim and can step out and knock down outside shots consistently. Thomas had 12 points and 13 rebounds against Mason. Thomas is rated as Prep Hoops’ No. 111 overall prospect in the state of Michigan for the class of 2019. With Henry being a senior, next season will be their time to step into much bigger roles.
Mason jumped out to an early lead on the Chieftains, thanks in large part to transition points and the open looks they were getting. However, as the game went on, Okemos settled in defensively and really made Mason earn every basket. The Chieftains forced the Bulldogs to turn the ball over 18 times, and that really helped them get going offensively, because shots weren’t falling for them in the first half. One of the biggest reasons Okemos’ defense is so effective is Pruitt. His excellent on ball defense helps the rest of the team, because no one has to help when his man has the ball, making it difficult for opponents to drive and kick. On the interior, the Chieftains have enough size and athleticism to contest shots and limit offensive rebounds. Overall, the Chieftains are a nice all-around team that could make a deep run.
Class A is loaded with dominant teams, but Okemos is an under the radar team that could end up playing for a state title. If the Chieftains want to win a title, they can’t afford to come out flat like they did against Mason. They weren’t defending and couldn’t buy a bucket in the first half. That could have something to do with big game jitters, but the games are only going to get bigger from here on out. Okemos isn’t the most talented team left in the tournament. Teams like Clarkston and UD Jesuit have much more talent. However, the Chieftains are fundamentally sound, play together and value each possession. Their execution and grit has allowed them to knock off multiple top teams, such as East Lansing, Grand Ledge and Haslett. They are 19-4 for a reason and more than capable of knocking off top teams in the state.