Macomb Lutheran North boys basketball coach Jeff DeMasse watches his team during a Jan. 15 practice. DeMasse attributed the team’s slow start to injury and illness.

Macomb Lutheran North boys basketball coach Jeff DeMasse watches his team during a Jan. 15 practice. DeMasse attributed the team’s slow start to injury and illness.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Lutheran North boys basketball coach says health a major factor in team’s prospects

By: Jason Carmel Davis | C&G Newspapers | Published January 18, 2019


MACOMB TOWNSHIP — The Macomb Lutheran North boys basketball team got off to an 0-4 start, and coach Jeff DeMasse has pinpointed the exact reason why the team started slow out of the gate.

“We’ve got a young team,” said DeMasse, referencing the nine juniors on the roster. “And we weren’t 100 percent. The first five, six games of the season, we were battling injury and illness. We’ve grown a ton as a team since the start of the season, and we’re really looking forward to the back half of the season.”

The Mustangs look to have found their footing.

At press time, North was 4-7, but had gone 4-3 in its last seven games. The Mustangs were 1-3 in the Catholic High School League AA Division.

The record isn’t what the team would like, but the Mustangs have battled all season. Despite a losing record, North outscores opponents by 3.5 points per game.

“We are also coming together defensively and learning together how to win,” said DeMasse, who in 2017 led Lutheran North to its first CHSL tournament championship. “We have played well at times, and in two of our losses we were up big at half. Against Richmond (High on Dec. 4) we were up by 15 at half and lost in OT. We are a young team, and we are learning to play together and win down the stretch.”

The Mustangs are 100 percent healthy now, DeMasse said. That includes the return of senior Josh Kurlinski, who missed the team’s first five games. Kurlinski, DeMasse said, has made a big difference by providing leadership and doing “the little things that don’t always show up in the box score.”

North has also gotten solid contributions from seniors Connor Finkel and Ethan Bach. Juniors Colin Moldenhauer and Troy Tiseo have played well too, DeMasse said.

Finkel said the team has come together since being made whole. He said Mustangs coaches push the players every day to improve and a commitment to defense has shone through recently.

“We will continue to have success if we keep playing for each other unselfishly,” Finkel said.

One reason why DeMasse is excited about the coming weeks is that even though his team is young, the Mustangs can go 12 deep if need be. Each player on the roster has a high basketball IQ, which allows the coach to open up the playbook.

“We throw a lot of different looks offensively and defensively at teams, and we continue to add each week,” DeMasse said. “We have a very tough league and non-league schedule, and we need to keep our opponents on their toes.”

In order for the team to complete the in-season turnaround, North must stay committed to defense, DeMasse said. The Mustangs allowed 66.5 points per game during the 0-4 start to the season. Over its next seven games, North allowed 41.6 points per contest.

“It’s not fun losing, and after the first four, five games, we started to have fun again,” DeMasse said. “These guys get along on and off the court. They enjoy each other’s company. Our practices are intense, but there is always an element of friendly competition.

“Our goal is to get better each day, and I’m starting to see this. My coaching staff and I are very optimistic about the rest of the season. We are improving, and all 12 boys are playing selfless basketball, which will translate to success.”

North’s next game is against Pontiac Notre Dame Prep at 7 p.m. Jan. 24 on the road.