Blogs > Burney's Bytes

Burney's Bytes will focus primarily on the local preps sports scene, but will also touch on some college and pro athletics, mostly in regards to athletes who hail and have played high school sports in Oakland County. My goal for the blog is to be conversational and anecdotal, a more relaxed and free formal take on high school athletics than you see in regular game day coverage.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

We Are The Champions!

When first year-head coach and legendary alum, Tom Staton, took over the Ferndale boys basketball team back in the summer, he was intent on taking the Eagles program, a one time-Metro Detroit power, back to prominence.
In the end, it didn't take that long. As the rest of the area used Fat Tuesday to fatten their bellies with yummy Paczkis, Ferndale used the occasion to fatten its win-loss record. With their 74-62 home win over Farmington Hills Harrison on Tuesday night, Staton's Eagles ran their unblemished record in the Oakland Activities Association Blue Division to a perfect 11-0 and with the victory capture the program's first conference title since 1995.
Senior guard Jody Hill continued his smoking hot shooting streak in the game, connecting on 5 of 7 3-point attempts on his way to a game-high 25 points to lead Ferndale. Hill, who knocked down 8 of 11 attempts in a recent Eagles win, also added four assists, four rebounds, and three steals.
"This is an exciting feeling and something we want to build on as a program," said Hill of his squad's clinching of the league crown. "My senior class wanted to bring back the team's great legacy and make things the way they used to be around here. Getting the conference title is a big step in that direction."
In addition to winning the OAA Blue title, the Eagles improve their overall season record to 13-3. Harrison, also in the midst of a program-resurgence this season, falls to 10-6, 7-3 in conference action.
To properly take advantage of his senior floor general's super-soft shooting stroke, over the past month, Staton has been frequently shifting Hill off-ball and inserting junior Anthony Rice – a transfer from Southfield who became eligible in mid-January – into the line-up to handle the team's ball handling duties. Many of Hill's points on Tuesday came off feeds from Rice (six points, five assists).
"We're having fun and playing great basketball right now," Staton said. "I have shooters, slashers, passers, rebounders, and grind it out guys. This team can hurt you in a lot of different ways. We did a little of everything tonight and that's what I like to see. My big guns were all firing. These are really good kids and really good ball players.  Tip your hat to Harrison though. Those guys gave us everything they had. Whenever we got out in front, they kept making runs at us."
A 1975 graduate of Ferndale, Staton was a three-time all-state hoopster and went on to play his college ball at the University of Michigan, where he was a member of the 1976 Wolverines team that made it to the Final Four.
The game stayed close for three and a half quarters with Ferndale on top for most of the time, but Harrison keeping within striking distance. The Hawks surged in front on two separate occasions midway through the third quarter, yet both runs were quickly quelled by the Eagles energized offense. Harrison took its final lead of the contest on a hoop by David Evans that gave the Hawks a 44-42 advantage with a little under four minutes to play in the quarter.
Refusing to let the conference title slip through his team's grasp, Hill proceeded to take over the game. He scored eight of the Eagles final 11 points of the quarter to give Ferndale a 53-50 lead going into the fourth. An offensive rebound and put back-hoop by Rex Jenkins pushed the Eagles lead to 63-52 with 4:18 remaining.
With Harrison continuing to fight it took three buckets by Antonio Combs in the closing three and a half minutes of the contest as, shut down any thoughts of a Hawks comeback.
Jenkins finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds and Combs finished with nine points and 10 rebounds. Eagles starting center, Jerrell Gandy registered seven points and 10 rebounds.
"I tell the kids to play every game like they're playing for the conference championship and tonight was the real deal," said Staton in a near-empty gym following the win. "We're not afraid of anyone going forward. That's our mentality."
Staton's attitude will most-likely pay dividends in the state tournament as Ferndale is playing in perhaps the toughest Class A district in the entire state. The Eagles will be seeking their first district title since 2001 in a playing pool consisting of the likes of Southfield, Southfield-Lathrup, Detroit Henry Ford, and Detroit Renaissance.


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