MADISON HEIGHTS — It was the day before Madison Heights Madison boys basketball was set to host its first Macomb Area Conference Blue Division game, and coach Matt Ferguson was stressing the finer points of what he wants to see out of his team.
The players were trying to box each other out of the circle at the center of the court. The player knocked out owed 10 pushups.
“The biggest doesn’t always win; the smartest wins,” Ferguson yelled to his team.
Playing aggressive and smart are the pillars Ferguson is looking to build his program on: knowing what the opponent is going to do even before it knows.
“What we have to do is play good full-court defense,” Ferguson said Jan. 13. “For us, that will get us in transition and get some easy buckets.”
The following night, the Eagles beat Port Huron Northern 69-46 to go 1-0 in the division.
The win marked Madison’s fourth straight after dropping the first two of the year.
Ferguson credits the turnaround to the team being able to spend more time together.
“Our football team went a little long in the playoffs, to their credit. Football demands a lot of these kids, so we’re a little behind the eight ball, but we’re starting to get there,” the coach said. “They are understanding our defense and turning it into our offense. We try to create and jump the ball when (opponents) get out of control.”
The Eagles return three starters from the squad that finished in third in the Blue last season, including lone senior Davon Payne.
Last season, Payne averaged 21 points per game, but with a more balanced scoring attack, Payne has registered 15 a contest so far this time around.
Overall, the Eagles are leading the division in average margin of victory (21), but Ferguson doesn’t put much stock in that stat, saying that a lot of factors play into it, most notably the teams on the schedule.
All Ferguson concerns himself with is an attacking defense, and an offense that makes the right read and takes the right shot.
“I think they can contend for the league, but that’s not going to happen without hard work,” he said.
Catch the Eagles against defending division champion Warren Fitzgerald at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 24 on the road.