Michigan State commitment Keith Appling exploded for 49 points, including 23 in the first half to lead the Detroit Pershing Doughboys to the Class A State Championship over Kalamazoo Center 90-73.
Appling was nearly flawless in going 17-of-24 from the floor, including 5-of-7 from three-point range and 10-of 12 from the line while dishing off five assists to give the Doughboys their fifth State Championship. Appling was pulled with 1:08 remaining and he could have had 50 or more.
Kalamazoo came into the game carrying the mantra that Pershing was a two-man team, while Kalamazoo was a 15-man complete team. But the bottom line was that, at least for one game, they couldn't stop one....Appling.
The Pershing program has been a consistent winner, posting four State Championship with consistently good coaching starting with the legendary Will Robinson. Pershing players sate to a man, that head coach A.W. Canada will do whatever it takes to put his players in a winning atmosphere.
That's why no one blinked when Canada made the tough decision to hold Juwan Howard, Jr. out of the championship game. Howard suffered a severely infected finger that kept him out of the quarterfinal and semifinal games but was deemed healthy enough to go in this one, but the staff decided that they'd rather err on the side of caution and not take any chances.
But Canada saw his team down by four 39-35 at the half, but Appling took control in the second half, leading the Pershing fast break attack and adding 26 second-half points
"They tried to double down and take away Nix," said the East Lansing bound junior Appling, " so that opened things up for me a little more."
And Appling took advantage, missing just six shots in his finest performance in the tournament to date.
The Maroon Giants were led by senior point guard Juwan Hemphill, an all-state defensive back on the gridiron, who scored 20 points, but turned it over nine time. Devin Oliver led Kalamazoo Central with 21 points and five rebounds.
After losing in the State Finals last year, Appling said Pershing was determine not to allow that happen again.
"We wanted to redeem ourselves for last year and we did that," said Appling. Another point of emphasis was to send their senior Mr. Basketball Derrick Nix out with a state championship.
"We didn't talk about it, but we all knew we wanted to send our seniors out as champions. We did that."
While the Doughboys lose seniors Derrick Nix and backup center Tevon Conrad, an offensive line prospect on the gridiron who scored four points and grabbed seven rebounds, they return guards Dennis Perry and Ben Richbow, who combined for 22 points for Pershing and of course, Appling.
While Nix will join the Michigan State basketball program this fall, Spartans fans have to wait another year for the junior Appling who gets to enjoy the fifth State Championship at Pershing and try for another next season.
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