Statement game: Swartz Creek gets 18-point win over unbeaten Fenton

Swartz Creek senior Cody Campbell

SWARTZ CREEK, Michigan — What a difference coaching can make.

In January, just one year ago, Swartz Creek was playing for pride only. Floundering along in the Flint Metro League with a team that, true be told, had more talent than this year’s squad, the Dragons finished the season as a very ordinary near .500 team.

This is now.

Former Burton Bentley coach Jeremy Trent, who took the reins from Eric Senter at Creek, once again proved why he’s considered among the top young coaches in Michigan, as his Dragons put a beatdown on Fenton, 72-54.

Senter, now an assistant coach at Fenton, had one of the best seats in a sold-out house Friday night to watch his former players beat the brakes off his new team in the second half.

Led by senior guard Cody Campbell who, under Trent, appears to have a new lease on his basketball life, Swartz Creek staved off a first half run by the Tigers and pulled away midway through the third quarter.

The turning point in the game was a 4-point play by Campbell in the third quarter. The crowd erupted, and so did Creek. They never trailed again. Creek now has wins against the two teams, Holly and Fenton, that most believed would battle for the conference crown.

Game notes

– Campbell is among the best ballhandlers I’ve seen in the Metro League since I began covering it five or so years ago. He’s always under control and can dribble the ball through the eye of a needle. Campbell had 25 points in the game including a nasty step-back 3-pointer that left his defender marooned in the lane. On Saturday, Campbell will take a visit to Hope College in Holland.

Swartz Creek head coach Jeremy Trent

– Creek had three players in double figures including forwards Logan Hull and Trevor Black, who scored 18 and 14 points, respectively. Hull, in particular, kept the Tigers from getting a foothold in the game in the second half, setting the table for Campbell and his 22 second-half points.

– Fenton’s tandem of sharp-shooting forwards, Ryan Hickoff and Tyler Hamilton, scored 15 points apiece to pace Fenton. In the end, however, they were part of the problem for the Tigers in the second half. Too often Fenton rushed shots on possessions rather than running through the offense. They were losing control of the game, true, but they were trying to get it all back at once. That never works. In addition, Fenton missed an inordinate amount of shots from point-blank range.

– I wish every young player in the Genesee County could have been at this game. It may as well have been a case study on how to win with less talent. It’s real simple: E-F-F-O-R-T. Many of the same players who didn’t give it up for their coach last year, played like there was no tomorrow for their new coach. Fenton was undefeated and the conference champs from 2009. They are deeper and more talented and lost because they couldn’t match their opponent’s intensity. Effort is contagious. What the Dragons get from their coach and best player seems to be filtering through.