Allen Park made the short drive to Dearborn Edsel Ford on Friday night for an early season Downriver League battle.
Allen Park at the Edsel Ford Boys Basketball Photo Gallery
Both teams entered the competition after suffering heavy 3-point losses on Tuesday. Allen Park lost 49-46 on the road to Gibraltar Carlson while Edsel lost in overtime to crosstown rival Dearborn Fordson, 52-49.
It was another close battle for the two clubs on Friday, but a late push down the home stretch propelled the host Thunderbirds to their first win of the season, a 56-50 win over the visiting Jaguars.
The two teams played tied 10-10 in the first eight minutes, thanks to good defense. This theme continued throughout the second stanza, with Allen Park finally taking a little lead in the end, taking a 25-19 lead at halftime.
Edsel (1-1, 1-0 DRL) responded big to open the second half. The hosts scored the first nine points to enter the third quarter, kicking off what turned into an 18-2 race. It was all part of a 23-point third quarter for the T-Birds against the Jags (1-3, 0-2 DRL).
“We stifled them in the third,” said Edsel coach Ibrahim Baydoun. “I challenged them at half-time to really strengthen the defense. They took my advice, and when these kids play well in defense, it translates into a good offense.
Allen Park coach Jimmy Victor said Edsel “just wanted more” at the end of the half.
“We can’t come out in the second half with zero energy,” said Victor. “(Edsel) was really flying all over the place and they got us on our heels. We’re still learning to play as a team, so we have to be able to slow down and go get a bucket to stop the bleeding.
The Jags, however, answered the bell. Trailing by 11, they put in a 14-3 push that extended into the fourth quarter, tying things at 43 — all with less than six minutes to go.
“I have to give our guys credit,” said Victor. “Once they understood that they could also attack (Edsel), all of a sudden we were able to come back into the game. But you can’t be the opposite of an 18-2 streak and expect to be successful.
The T-Birds went on to score seven of the next nine points and never looked back. This late push was guided by Caleb Smith, one of the 11 seniors in Edsel’s roster this season. Smith finished with a high of 23 points, including 15 in the second half.
“He’s a very good boy to train and to be around,” said Baydoun. “He’s working hard on it and really developed his game. He’s been out for a few weeks with a bad back. But give it a few weeks and it will get back into shape. He’s a really special talent.
Baydoun is taking a long time to see his side secure a victory in a close game after losing the season opener to Fordson in overtime earlier in the week.
“It’s really something that I’m proud of as a coach,” said Baydoun. “I’ve been around here for a number of years now. When it comes to closed matches I really want to make a difference in the outcome of the match. “
Not only are these single-digit losses for Allen Park, but it’s a loss they will have to sit on for 18 days. The Jags have no games scheduled until January 4, when they will face former DRL foe and region rival Melvindale in non-league action.
“We’re going to take that next week and sit down with each player individually,” said Victor. “We’ll talk about their strengths and weaknesses and focus on specific things individually. It will be about how we can continue to fight and improve for our teammates.
In addition to Smith’s exit, Edsel also had 10 points from Ahmed Algabri, eight points from Du’Shaw Harris and six points each from Martell Travis and Alex Potts.
Eight different players scored for Allen Park on Friday. Adrien Putnam led the Jags with 14 points, including a perfect 8 of 8 night from the free throw line. As a team, the Jags were 12-15 from the gang. Tiago Howard Putnan in double digits with 13 points while Josh Walker and Ethan Baugh each scored six points.
Edsel has a non-championship road game in Garden City on December 21 at 6 p.m. before playing in the Guido Holiday Basketball Showcase on December 28 at Divine Child High School. On that day, the T-Birds will take on their rival from the town of Dearborn High at 1:30 p.m. in what will be the final edition of the Guido Showcase.
Edsel will open the new year by hosting another rival from the area at Dearborn Heights Crestwood on January 4 at 7 p.m. before returning to DRL play on January 7 at Taylor High at 7 p.m.
For Allen Park, Friday was the second in what is currently a five-game road swing for the team. Following the Jan. 4 game against Melvindale, the Jags will visit league opponents Lincoln Park and Wyandotte Roosevelt on Jan. 11 (7 p.m.) and Jan. 14 (6 p.m.), respectively.
Allen Park’s next home game won’t be until Jan. 18, when Southgate Anderson (7 p.m.) arrives in town.