Regional Preview: If Skyline does its thing, the Eagles should fly past the Wildcats

The Skyline boys’ basketball team has won 23 games in a row against a very tough schedule. In fact, three of those teams will be playing tonight (March 14) in Regional final games. Wayne Memorial is playing Belleville in a Regional final – Skyline beat both teams earlier in the season.

The other team, Novi, will be on the court tonight with the Eagles in a Regional final at 7 p.m. at Salem High School.

But if you’re Skyline, it all comes down to what standout guard Brandon Wade said following his team’s win Monday over Howell in the Regional semifinal. He said something along the lines of “if we play Skyline basketball we should be fine…it’s what got us here.”

Fair enough. Take care of yourself and everything else should take care of itself.

The Eagles do an excellent job getting prepared and knowing their opponent’s strengths, weaknesses and tendencies. But Wade is right, at this point it’s all about what Skyline does and not what their opponent is doing.

Their opponent on Monday came out shooting the lights out but the Eagles never panicked. As Coach Mike Lovelace said, they did enough to stay in the game and keep it close. Eventually, the Highlanders would cool off and eventually the cream would rise to the top – which it did.

It’s hard to believe that a team can come out shooting the ball as well as Howell did on Monday night. The Highlanders jumped out to an eight-point halftime lead by hitting 7 of 9 triples in the first half.

Well, the Wildcats came out in the second semifinal game against Lakeland and made their first six three-pointers. Novi knocked down 12 triples in the win with three players making three or more showing their versatility.

Novi seniors Trendon Hankerson (21 points) and Traveon Maddox, Jr. (17 points) each knocked down four three-pointers in the win over Lakeland. Junior Jiovanni Miles, who also has plenty of range on his jumper, scored 13 for the Wildcats.

The two teams have history this season, although it was a long time ago. Skyline defeated Novi by 16 points in the season opener in December but the Wildcats were without Hankerson and Tariq Woody (11 points vs. Lakeland).

If Novi Coach Brandon Sinawi needed a reminder about how good Skyline is, he got a glimpse in the first game on Monday night.

“They have multiple guys that can hurt you and if one of them is off, they have others who can pick him up,” Sinawi told the Oakland Press after his team’s win over Lakeland. “They can score from anywhere … their record speaks for itself. We’re going to battle. They beat us the first time around, but we’re going to be hungry.”

It should be quite the matchup up top with Brandon Wade and Hankerson on point for each team. The 6-4 Hankerson, who missed half the season with a broken foot, has found his stride late in the season. He made 6 of 7 shots including four triples in the win over Lakeland.

If you are looking for advantages, Novi has a couple. They are familiar with the gym at Salem as both schools are members of the Kensington Lakes Activities Association although the Eagles looked quite comfortable there on Monday.
Novi also has been here before, playing in last year’s Regional final.

It’s not easy to break down the Eagles’ Regional semifinal win because Brandon Wade simply took over in the third quarter. The others did a good job of not exactly getting out of his way, but setting him up to succeed.

For Skyline to succeed going forward, more of their weapons are going to have to produce. Senior Jack Ammerman’s shot will eventually start falling – he needs to keep shooting the rock – and Ryan Wade and DeSean Munson are too good to not dominate inside. Sophomore Kabir Bergin has been solid at both ends of the floor and Darius Hall is another strong player for the Eagles.

And if all these things happen and Brandon Wade does his thing – it’s like the senior said, it really doesn’t matter what the opponent does.
 

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