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Cass Tech Wins MHSAA Division 1 State Tournament

Photo by DeShawn Johnson

East Lansing – Muskegon’s great tournament play got them to the State Championship, but unfortunately, they fell just short of the trophy as the Cass Technicians came out on top 78-63, for the 2023 MHSAA Championship.

The Crowd Sets the Scene

The intensity levels inside the Breslin Center were high the moment the fans filled the seats. Each bleacher set was packed to the max as fans piled in to see the best boys in the state face off.

The first quarter started a little slow for both teams, thanks to the extra tough defense played by both teams. Within the first quarter, there were 4 emphatic blocks, each louder than the last.

The Big Reds had already heard the news about sophomore guard Darius “Cheeks” Acuff, and they started the game with their best defensive guard face-guarding Acuff for the entire first quarter.

However, that would not stop him from scoring the first basket for Cass Tech, nor would it stop him from still having a pretty good first half.

After scoring the first basket for his team, Cheeks scored again, got a steal and passed to freshman Corey Sadler Jr., who was fouled.

Early on, Muskegon created a lot of great opportunities for them to score. However,  they were struggling to find the bottom of the basket from three, and the Technicians were playing great early paint defense.

The intensity was rising high, and after another emphatic block, this one by Christian Hairston, Hairston stared down a player on Muskegon and was assessed a technical foul.

With less than 10 seconds to go in the first quarter, junior forward Justin Watson hit an incredible 3-pointer at the buzzer. Cass Tech still led, however, 14-11, at the end of the first.

Overcoming Confusion

The second quarter started with a bit of confusion as Cass Tech was issued a tech, but many fans were unsure why. Apparently, one player on the Technicians side checked in with a different number on his jersey than in their scorebook, so they assessed another tech to start the second.

Day III would knock down the two technical free throws, and now the game was close after the buzzer beater and technicals. Watson would hit his second 3-pointer in the game, and it was tied at 16-16.

Cass would take the lead back swiftly, but for most of the quarter, both teams continued to exchange shots back and forth. The defense and pressure had both relaxed a bit, and now the players were comfortable. Currently, the score is 26-22, and Cass Tech is still leading.

Cass Tech did not let off either, going on a 12-4 run to close out the quarter with once again a 10-point lead, 41-31.

The Champs are Here

Senior guard for the Big Reds, Jordan Briggs, got things going for his team the moment the second half got going. Before the third quarter, Briggs had two points and had barely shot the ball, but early in the third he made back-to-back threes and a layup for the first eight points of the half for Muskegon.

After the game, Briggs spoke about this hot streak, “We were down 10 going into the third quarter and I just felt like we needed a few shots to go down to give us the momentum and I knocked a few down so that got us going good.”

Cass Tech also committed four fouls in the first four minutes of the third and gave away a lot of free throws. Muskegon took advantage of the free shots, and soon they had their first lead since the score was 4-2.

It didn’t last long, however, as the Technicians again took the lead back before the Big Reds could even enjoy it. However, Muskegon refused to let Cass Tech build up their lead again and kept it close, 50-47, at the end of the third.

Starting the fourth, Cass Tech lost a key player from their lineup as Sadler Jr. picked up his fifth foul and had to be removed from the game. It would work out, however, because Sean Hodges would be his replacement.

Another Jersey Technical

Hodges scored six points in the fourth and helped the Technicians continue to go on a scoring spree, and if it wasn’t for another jersey technical, the clock probably would have run out, and it would have ended 75-61.

Another technical had been assessed to the coaching staff of the technicians after another player attempted to sub in, but his jersey number was different than in the score book.

This prolonged the game, but made no real difference to the scoreboard. There simply was not enough time for Muskegon to come back.

Junior point guard Mathieu Collins put the icing on the cake as he swished his first and only three of the game, although it was unnecessary. And just like that, the Technicians become the 2023 MHSAA state champions.

Post Game

The post-game was very emotional for the new champs, and rightfully so, as there has been a big cloud of expectations over their boys’ basketball team for some time now.

TVS has decided to put together the best quote from a few players and Head Coach Steven Hall.

  • Coach Hall: “It’s unbelievable what we’ve been able to do, I always talk to my team about keeping a tight circle and to try and kill the noise, but sometimes you can’t help but hear some things that motivate you…. I got a special group of guys here that have been successful for a long time.”
  • Darius Acuff (19 Pts, 4 Ast, 3 Reb): “Feels good, first one (championship) I just want to keep it going and I thank everyone on the team they helped me this whole year and it feels good to have a chip… An Acuff hasn’t won one in a minute so I’m just glad I was able to.”
Photo by DeShawn Johnson
  • Travon Cooper (19 Pts, 8 Reb): “It’s bittersweet, it was a little emotional before the game I was like, ‘dang this is really my last one?’ but you know everything has to come to an end. Win or lose I was proud of my team and my brothers for making it here, we had a great season.”
  • Kenneth Robertson (15 Pts, 6 Reb): “It feels great being my last game and last time at Cass Tech, last time putting on the jersey number fourteen and it feels good going out… it’s something that I can talk about for the rest of my life, I can tell my kids.”

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