FLINT, Michigan — Mott’s opening game in the District 10 Tournament on Tuesday night seemed eerily familiar. The no. 5-ranked Bears punished Schoolcraft by 46 points at home just two weeks ago and, lo and behold, their first round opponent came back for more.
Same court. Same result.
Mott punished Schoolcraft 105-55 and will compete in the semifinals against rival Oakland CC at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday at Delta College.
The victory, the Bears’ sixth in a row, marks the 19th consecutive season that head coach Steve Schmidt has led Mott to at least 25 wins.
That’s not a misprint. It’s a statistic that is every bit as absurd as it is true. It speaks to the degree of dominance he has asserted in his career over junior college basketball. He has made a career out of making good teams look average and average teams look like Schoolcraft did tonight.
The Bears were up 31 at the half led by guards Malik Albert and Marcus Johnson. Albert, Mott’s leading scorer, was near perfect in limited minutes. The sophomore scored 21 points with seven assists and only one turnover. Not to be outdone, Johnson, a freshman, scored a game-high 22 points with six assists and no turnovers.
The play of the game came midway through the first half when freshman forward Ruston Hayward posterized two defenders in transition. He high-pointed the ball and flushed it like former Mott All-Amercan Thomas Kennedy used to. Hayward scored 18 points with 11 rebounds. Sophomore Jamal Reynolds added 12 points, nine rebounds and four steals.
Terrence Coles led Schoolcraft (14-15) with 16 points.
Mott toyed with Schoolcraft in the second half, leading by as many as 55 even after emptying the bench. Even freshman guard Chase Krager, a baseball player by trade, got in the game and buried a couple 3-pointers in his final game before heading south for spring training. In the post-game interview, Schmidt said Krager has done a lot to help the team this season and that he is more than welcome to return to the bench if the Bears advance to nationals.
The Bears shot just shy of 60 percent from the field as a team and forced the Ocelots into 23 turnovers.
This season didn’t start the way many had planned, but it’s finishing the way it always does. The Bears are one game away from playing for a championship and hitting their stride at just the right time.
“We’re going to do our best to get ready,” Schmidt said. “We are playing in a district with three of the top six teams in the country. It’s a three-part process. We got step one done tonight, but we have a tough test ahead of us on Thursday.
During the regular season, Mott split with no. 6-ranked Oakland (27-3). Each team won on its home floor. Oakland survived in a double overtime thriller and Mott held court by 11 in a game that wasn’t as close as the score suggests. The Raiders beat Henry Ford by five Tuesday night to earn the right to face Mott on Thursday.
Wayne (23-4) will take on the home team, Delta College (14-16), in the other semifinal. The winners will play on Saturday for the right to represent District 10 in the NJCAA National Tournament in Danville, Illinois, later this month.