Country Day Fires on All Cylinders, Takes Battle of Guards
By Scott M. Burnstein
The M&M Show was in town Saturday night and playing a one time-gig at Birmingham Detroit Country Day. And we're not talking about a hip hop show headlined by Motor City rap legend, Marshall Mathers or some kind of chocolate candy convention either, but rather a prep hoops throwdown between All-State point guards, DCD's Ray McCallum, Jr. and Melvindale ABT's Michael Talley, Jr., two of the highest-rated backcourt recruits in the state.
With substantial aid from his supporting cast, McCallum and the host Yellowjackets beat Talley and his visiting ABT Gators 64-51 in the feature game of the 12th annual Walt Keener Tip-Off Classic, held throughout the day at Country Day's palacial campus on the corner of 13 Mile Road and Lahser.
In addition to taking home the win, McCallum also bested Talley on the stat sheet. "Big Play" Ray went wild and busted loose for 25 points, six assists and five steals on the night. Talley was held in check for the most of the evening by a relentless Yellowjackets' defense and finished with a very mortal 13 points and four assists.
Junior center Amir Williams was a dominating presence in the paint all game for Country Day and made life difficult for any opposing player trying to score in the lane. Much like McCallum, Williams had a monster outing, registering a triple double by scoring 14 points, grabbing a game-high 16 rebounds and blocking 10 shots. McCallum's backcourt mate, Chris Fowler chipped in with a commanding complimentary performance of 14 points, six assists, and four steals.
One of the most sought after high school floor generals in the nation, McCallum is still undecided on where he will be playing his college ball. On the other hand, Talley, wanted to wrap up the decision process before the season started and inked with Dusquene back in November.
"It was a great game," said McCallum following another superb outing. "I was really looking forward to the match-up between myself and Mike because he's a great player and I need to test myself against the best whenever I can. But as much as I respect him as a player, I wasn't going to let him come into my house and get a win. I think things are coming along well with the team. The younger guys are all really playing well and consistent. Games like this make you better and I've got to bring my best every time I hit the court, so I can lead this team to the heights we all feel we should achieve."
Besides being outstanding ball players themselves, both McCallum and Talley's fathers were top-rate prepsters in their own right. McCallum's dad, Ray, Sr., head men's basketball coach at the University of Detroit-Mercy, was a high school All-American at Muncie Central in Indiana where he won two state championships. Talley's pops and head coach, Michael, Sr., won the state's Mr. Basketball Award and captured a breathtaking three consecutive state championships at Detroit Cooley in the late-1980's.
The Yellowjackets', the number one ranked team in the state in Class B, improve their record to 3-0 overall. ABT, who won the Class C state title last March but was forced to vacate the championship after it was found out that an ineligible player was on the Gators' roster, drops to 2-1.
Early on, the game was tightly contested. Talley's off-balance 3-pointer from the left elbow midway through the first quarter gave ABT its only lead of the night at 11-10. Seven straight points from McCallum – a long 3 from the corner, a vicious two hand-slam on a fast break, and a put back at the buzzer – provided Country Day a 17-11 advantage heading into the second quarter.
Trying to keep pace with his prolific teammate, Fowler put in seven straight points himself to start the new quarter and the Yellowjackets led 24-11. Taking a 34-18 halftime lead, Country Day kept smoking in the second half. Williams opened the half with an emphatic slam dunk off a feed from McCallum and the 'Jackets were off and running, outscoring the gators 13-2 in the first four minutes of the third quarter. Another rim-rattling stuff by Williams, this time via a pass from Fowler, made it 47-20 and forced ABT to take a time out.
A slickly-maneuvered up-and-under in the paint by McCallum pushed the Country Day lead to an even 2 points, at 52-32 early in the fourth quarter and it looked as if the knockout punch had been dealt. But the Gators kept chomping away at their deficit and with 2:47 left on the clock they had it down to single-digits. Talley's 3-pointer from the right wing made the score 58-49.
Country Day finished strong though and promptly dashed any ideas of an ABT comeback by hitting its free throws and causing turnovers. McCallum swiped away two steals and drained two pairs of freebies from the charity stripe in the closing two and a half minutes. Williams hit a pair of free throws himself and blocked three shots over the closing 90 seconds. Junior guard Lee Bailey banged down a 3-pointer from the left baseline on a kick-out from McCallum at the 1:48 mark of the fourth that delivered the final deathblow to the feisty Gators.
Marcell Smith highlighted ABT's offense by scoring a team-high 18 points.
Yellowjackets head coach, Kurt Keener (whose father, Walt, the day of hoops is named in honor of), knew not to take his competition lightly, even after getting on top big.
"That's a state championship team out there, so you have to expect they will keep fighting and eventually put together a run," he said after giving his post-game address to the team. "I told my guys to keep their guards up and sure enough the run happened and we were ready for it.
Keener also enjoyed seeing his squad flourish in the transition game – the 'Jackets scored more than half of their points off the fast break.
"This team has the legs and the skills to really get up and down the floor with the best of them," he said. "We want to push tempo at every opportunity. And hopefully it will be a defense leading to offense sort of thing. When the defense is being aggressive and attacking and causing turnovers, the offense will benefit from easy hoops on the break. The defense has been very good so far. That's really what I'm most pleased about after our first week."
LAKERS LOOK STELLAR IN WIN, BLUE JAY'S FALTER LATE & LOSE
In earlier games that took place in the Keener Classic, West Bloomfield topped Detroit Community 73-55 and Southfield fell to Detroit Douglas 43-38 in a low-scoring affair the directly preceded the evening's main event of DCD v. ABT.
Blake Johnson anchored the Lakers' scoring assault with 16 points. Spencer Parker put in 15 points and David Pool added 12 for the WB.
Southfield had trouble overcoming a stifling box-and-one defense applied by Douglas in order to contain the Blue Jays' star player, junior Carlton Brundidge. The strategy paid off and the usually high-scoring Michigan commit was held to a paltry 13 points, a good dozen points off his average from last year.
Holding a 36-34 lead after three quarters of play, Southfield gave up a 6-0 run to the Hurricanes to start the fourth and couldn't recover. Two baskets by sophomore Martez Asberry and a reverberating slam dunk by Dennis Hogan gave Douglas a 40-36 lead with six and a half minutes remaining. A pair of free throws by Pee Wee Barnes pulled the Blue Jays to within a single hoop, at 40-38. After Hogan split a pair of free throws, Southfield had a chance to tie with a 3-pointer, but a trifecta attempt from the right corner that looked good upon its release, went long and the Hurricanes hit their free throws down the stretch to close things out.
Senior Trey Ware scored 12 points and hit three triples in the game for the Blue Jays.