Stoney Creek boys basketball eyes district defense

By: Timothy Pontzer | Rochester Post | Published February 6, 2018

 Stoney Creek senior guard Jericho Barr-Redmond drives to the basket during a Jan. 24 game with Avondale. Barr-Redmond is one of six seniors on the team.

Stoney Creek senior guard Jericho Barr-Redmond drives to the basket during a Jan. 24 game with Avondale. Barr-Redmond is one of six seniors on the team.

Photo by Deb Jacques

ROCHESTER HILLS — Last year marked the Rochester Hills Stoney Creek boys basketball team’s most successful season in program history.

The Cougars finished 19-6 overall and won the program’s first district championship. This season will offer a chance to defend that title, with the added bonus of Stoney Creek hosting the district.

“Our No. 1 goal is to defend that district championship,” Stoney Creek coach Steven Norgrove said after a Jan. 31 practice. “It’s in our gym, and it’s very important for us to build on what we were able to accomplish last season.”

At press time, Stoney Creek was 5-7 overall and 3-4 in the Oakland Activities Association White Division. The coach admitted that the Cougars have had highs and lows this season, citing a lack of consistency on offense. However, Norgrove believes Stoney Creek’s defensive prowess has been there all year and will serve the team well in the postseason.

“We’re defending better than we ever have,” Norgrove said. “We’re holding teams down as best we can to allow our offense some time to catch up. Our biggest strength is without question how we play together on the defensive end. We play very unselfish defense and are always in the right gaps and in help. We never try to leave a guy on an island in isolation.”

The Cougars have held opponents to 40 points or less on four occasions this season.

“We always take pride in our defense; it’s kind of a staple here,” Norgrove said. “We’re trying to carry that torch. This year we’ve needed it even more with our offensive struggles as well as at the free-throw line, but we’ve been in a lot of games because our defensive grit has kept the scores close.”

Stoney Creek’s offensive attack suffered a major setback when senior forward Michael Melaragni injured his foot in December. This year’s “Mr. Soccer,” Melaragni was a go-to option in the post due to his athleticism and size, and he may possibly be out for the remainder of the year.

“We absolutely took a hit when Michael went down,” Norgrove said. “He’s an emotional leader, and I really noticed the intensity was down in practice. He constantly brought that intensity in practice. But now our guys have rebounded and started to bring it back again in practices and games.”

Norgrove pointed to senior Nate Davis as someone who has helped to pick up the slack. A three-year varsity player, Davis can play both guard and forward and is committed to playing at Hope College next year.

“We’ve really had to lean on (Davis) this year, especially offensively, as other guys are maturing and finding a rhythm,” Norgrove explained. “At times it’s been an unfair burden for him. But he handles it well and takes things in stride. We’re working on getting him some relief lately. He’s definitely the catalyst on offense.”

Davis said he is willing to take on whatever role is requested by Norgrove.

“I just want to help the team win,” Davis said. “As a senior who has been on the team the longest, I try to be there for the other guys when they need me. Even though our offense struggles sometimes, once we get into the playoffs, we know our defense will be there and that gives us a chance in any game.”

Norgrove said that from now until the district opener against Romeo High March 5, he hopes to grow the comfort level of his team, finding others he can count on.

“It’s taken a little longer than anticipated, but we’re hanging in there. I like where we’re headed,” the coach said. “Guys are starting to get that confidence, and that’s all you can ask for.”

Norgrove mentioned senior guard Andrew Carson as someone starting to blossom in the lineup. In a Feb. 2 victory over Birmingham Seaholm, Carson led all scorers with 22 while Davis added 21.

“(Carson) has been a good leader for us who has really started to emerge as more than just a shooter,” Norgrove said. “He’s starting to redefine himself, and we’re really proud of that. He used to just shoot (3-pointers), but now he’s involved everywhere on the floor and is doing a great job.”

With the goal of once again finding playoff success, Norgrove is quick to make sure his club still focuses on the remainder of the regular season while growing as a unit.

“Down the final stretch, we’re looking to keep pace and get better every game,” Norgrove said. “We believe in the process and not just look at each game if it’s a win or a loss. … Things come together when you give yourself fully to the team.”