PORT HURON, Michigan — During a timeout late in Wednesday night’s 79-75 victory for no. 2-ranked Mott over St. Clair, Mott assistant coach Yusuf Harris looked in my direction, pointed at the floor and mouthed the word “always.”
I knew exactly what he meant.
There’s something about that little matchbox of a gym in Port Huron that creates one of the most inhospitable environments for basketball in the MCCAA; over the past many years, Mott has not lost at St. Clair; that said, the Bears have never left feeling like they didn’t have to fight for the victory.
Mott led by three at the half, trailed by as many as five in the second half before building a nine-point lead with six minutes to play. St. Clair, led by sophomore guard Johnnie Mills, made that lead disappear just more than two minutes later.
With the game very much in question, freshman guard Malik Albert sucked the life out of the gym with a pair of 3-pointers, bracketing a rebound and basket by Coreontae DeBerry, in the final three minutes to seal the victory.
“His missed his first five (3-point) attempts, but he’s a confident player,” said Mott head coach Steve Schmidt of Malk
Albert who finished with 18 points, and added some clutch free throws to his clutch 3-pointers late.
Sophomore Fred Mattison led Mott (15-1) with 22 points and 13 rebounds. DeBerry added 15 and six rebounds.
The player of the game was Mills, who was simply unstoppable in the second half. He finished with 31 points for the Skippers.
It would be easy to assume Mott was caught looking ahead to Saturday’s showdown at home versus Oakland. Fortunately, I’ve been around too long to come to that conclusion. St. Clair is a solid program with a good coach and a couple really impressive guards. Add that to the fact that their homecourt advantage is among the best in the state.
“They always play us tough there,” said Mott head coach after the game. “It’s a good win for our team … that’s the same way it’s been the last five years.”
The Oakland game on Saturday at 3 p.m. in Flint should be packed, so get there early.