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Defense keeping Sterling Heights High boys hoops in games

By: Jason Carmel Davis | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published January 28, 2020

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STERLING HEIGHTS — For this particular edition of the Sterling Heights High boys basketball team, effort on defense will never be in question.

At press time, the Stallions were 3-7 overall and 1-3 in the Macomb Area Conference Gold Division, but that doesn’t show how hard the team plays each night.

Sterling Heights has allowed 40.2 points per game, which is the lowest in the 36-team MAC.

Getting back on defense has allowed the Stallions to stymie the opposition, Sterling Heights coach Mike Griffin said.

“We play a matchup zone that has allowed us to be a tough half-court defensive squad,” Griffin said. “We play and practice our zone every day, so if (an opposing team) only has a couple of days to prepare for it, it can be a tough task for them to score.”

Anchoring that defense is sophomore center Joe Thomas. Thomas is a major presence in the interior of that zone, Griffin said, adding that Thomas is the best defensive center he’s coached.

The offense must catch up to the defense if the Stallions are to make a run in the second half of the season. Sterling Heights has averaged 36.5 points per game, which is last in the MAC.

Griffin said inconsistency at the 3-point line has played a role in the team’s offensive woes.

“We try to space the floor on offense, and when we hit 3’s, we’re dangerous,” Griffin said. “It’s an ongoing process in practice to try to develop more shooters within our system.”

The team has been in just about every game it’s played. The Stallions are 1-4 in games decided by 5 points or less. Sterling Heights relies on a number of seniors to produce on offense. That group comprises point guard Gjon Dedvukaj and forwards Marcus Kakos, Noah Jarnot and Anthony Danno.

Despite the slow start, the Stallions could be a factor in the MAC Gold title race. The team is just two games out of first place with six divisional games left. Griffin said his team must control tempo and minimize turnovers to give itself a chance down the stretch.

“We’re hoping to make some noise in our league going forward,” Griffin said, “and we’re looking to make great strides so we can be a factor in our district.”

The Stallions’ next game is against Warren Woods Tower at 7 p.m. Jan. 31 on the road.

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