Troy High boys hoops outlasts De La Salle to claim regional title

Colts get first regional crown in 28 years

By: Jason Carmel Davis | C&G Newspapers | Published March 15, 2017


TROY — Troy High senior guard Leon Ayers wasn't born yet the last time his school won a regional title in 1989. On March 15, Ayers was a big reason that drought ended.

The Colts beat Warren De La Salle 48-40 in a Class A regional title game.

“It's crazy to think it's been that long since we won a regional title,” said Ayers, who scored 14 points in the win. “We knew we had a team that could get this far. It's just an unbelievable feeling that it happened.”

Troy (21-4) advances to take on West Bloomfield High (16-8) in a state quarterfinal set for 7 p.m. March 21 at the University of Detroit Mercy. The state semifinals and finals are March 24-25 at Michigan State University. West Bloomfield knocked off Novi High 67-66 March 15 in double overtime.

Colts coach Gary Fralick — in his 23rd year with the program — had gotten to five regional finals before March 15. His teams were 0-5 before the win against De La Salle.

Troy High’s 2-3 zone defense stymied another opponent. Pilots coach Greg Esler said the regional final was just the second time this season his team faced a zone. Esler said his players had good looks, but couldn’t capitalize.

“We packed it in and prayed they wouldn’t make the shots,” Fralick said. “They usually shoot better than they did tonight, but we played good defense. Our players are really active in the zone. They front the post, and they find the opposition’s best shooters and stay with them.”

De La Salle (14-10) got two free throws from junior forward Kole Gjonaj to cut Troy's lead to 43-38 with 4:27 left in the game. The Pilots didn’t score again until a layup by junior guard Justin Fischer with five seconds left, when the game had already been decided. Troy over the last half of the final frame got a layup from senior center Danny Sully with 1:47 left and free throws from Ayers and junior guard Justin Wilson. Wilson’s two makes put the Colts up 48-38 with 10.9 seconds left.

“They beat us. We didn’t shoot the ball well,” said Esler, who was looking for his first regional title since 2010.

Troy led 14-10 after the first quarter on the strength of an 11-2 run to close out the quarter. De La Salle jumped out to an early 8-3 lead behind two 3-pointers from junior wing Luke Pfromm, who led the Pilots with 15 points.

The Colts outscored the Pilots 12-10 in the second quarter to take a 26-20 lead into the locker room. Troy knocked down three 3-pointers in the frame — two by junior wing Jason Dietz, who finished with a game-high 16 points and four made 3s and one by Ayers. De La Salle had 3-pointers from senior guard Ryan Anderson and Pfromm. Pfromm’s shot came late in the quarter to trim Troy’s lead to six points. Ayers and Pfromm led their respective teams with 11 first-half points.

The Pilots opened the third quarter with a 3-0 spurt to cut the Colts lead to 26-23 with 3:49 left in the frame. The first field goal didn’t come until De La Salle senior guard Josh Vaillancourt hit a layup with 3:49 left in the quarter. Troy after that basket outscored the Pilots 12-2 to close out the third quarter, taking a 38-26 advantage into the final stanza.

“I think Troy’s last regional title came when they were at the old school. This is pretty sweet,” Dietz said. “We feel like we have a team full of all-around players. Our big guys can shoot. Our guards can rebound. We think it’ll take a team of well-rounded players to beat us.”

De La Salle has won eight regional championships. This was Troy's first regional final since 2004.

As for the quarterfinal, Troy and West Bloomfield met once this season. The Lakers won 64-61 Feb. 9. The Colts have won 11 straight games since then.