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Sterling boys contend for league title

By: Jon Malavolti | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published January 26, 2011

 Sterling Heights High junior Stacey Miller looks for dribbling room during a game earlier this season. The Stallions got off to a hot start in the MAC Gold.

Sterling Heights High junior Stacey Miller looks for dribbling room during a game earlier this season. The Stallions got off to a hot start in the MAC Gold.

Photo by Donna Agusti

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From a distance, Sterling Heights High’s boys basketball team’s record is nothing special.

But upon closer examination, the Stallions’ résumé reveals reason for excitement.

After starting the season 1-4, the team went on a four-game winning streak to kick off Macomb Area Conference Gold Division play. At press time, the squad was 5-5 overall, 4-1 in the league.

It’s not that Sterling struggled before finding its stride, but that the Stallions simply started the season against a slate of talented opponents.

“Our early schedule was very tough and filled with big, heavyweight opponents,” Sterling coach Mike Griffin said.

The team remained competitive and improved throughout that early stretch, and the payoff is that the Stallions have emerged from dark horse to lead horse in the race for the league crown.

“Our hope is that our tough early schedule will only help us as we enter league play,” the coach said. “These guys have been fun to coach because of how hard they work every day.”

More than anything, those early tests taught the team how important defense and taking care of the ball is.

“Our current strengths are our ability to play tough halfcourt defense and handle the ball,” Griffin said. “We knew going into the season that we had a lot of upside on defense, and we have really started to lock down our opponents.”

Through their first five league games, the Stallions have allowed an average of less than 40 points per game.

But the team isn’t becoming content, especially with so many tests ahead.

“We need to continue to improve upon our ability to box out and do better on the boards,” Griffin said. “We are not very big, so on a daily basis we are (practicing) our ability to get boards.

“Our goals are to continue to improve and be the toughest defensive team we can be. Obviously, we would like to be in the hunt for the Gold championship the last few games.”

Griffin highlighted a handful of key performers.

Senior center Abel Sullivan is the squad’s leading rebounder, shot blocker and “a great defender,” according to the coach.

Junior point guard Stacey Miller leads the team in assists and “is a great ball handler.”

And as for senior forward Julius Wade, Griffin said he “is a great overall player who fills up the stat sheet. He is a defensive player who can guard any position on the floor.”

The coach also noted the team should only get stronger once junior Tome Ivezaj returns to full health after an ankle injury.

“When we get him back, he is probably our best scorer,” Griffin said. “He is a forward who can score with post moves or step out and shoot the 3-point shot. He has a lot of upside to his game.”

The Stallions host Warren Woods Tower at 7 p.m. Feb. 1.

 

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