March 16, 2009
VIDEO: Appling, Nix face Lathrup after district scares
DETROIT, Mich. - The opponent was the same, but the team that Pershing beat 91-47 in district play last spring to kick off a run all the way to the Breslin Center was nowhere to be found last Wednesday.
Led by Michigan-bound big man Jordan Morgan and roster eight seniors deep, University of Detroit Jesuit nearly became just the second team to defeat top-ranked Pershing this season. The Cubs would have likely pulled off the upset if it had not been for the play of Michigan State commitments Keith Appling and Derrick Nix, who each did their part to ensure that the Doughboys would keep dancing.
Appling scored 35 points, collected 8 rebounds, 7 assists, and three steals to knock off Jesuit for the third consecutive season in district play.
First-year UD Jesuit coach Pat Donnelly, who has revitalized a basketball program that struggled mightily just one year ago, was pleased with the way his senior-laden ballclub stood toe-to-toe with a much more talented Pershing basketball team and did not blink against a Doughboy squad appeared to believe that they could run the Cubs out of the gym as they had done the previous two years.
It didn't help matters that Nix was less than 100 percent because of an illness that would have sidelined most players even during post-season play.
Appling picked up the slack for the ailing Nix and his teammates who faced an even tougher opponent that UD Jesuit in the district title game in No. 7 ranked Henry Ford, which fell in overtime on a triple by Appling off of one leg that found the bottom of the net from 35 feet out.
Appling, who tied teammate Juwan Howard Jr.[/db ] with 29 points against Ford scored the final nine points for his basketball team as both Howard and Nix watched from the bench after fouling out with just under four minutes left in regulation. Nix's back-up, 6-foot-8 bruiser Tevon Conrad, picked up his fifth foul in OT as did Howard Jr.
"I saw 6 seconds, and by the time I got to half-court there were 2 left," said Appling in an interview with the Detroit Free Press. "I knew when it got to 2 seconds, I was going to automatically shoot the ball, no ifs, ands or buts about the shot."
"I saw it in the air, and I started celebrating before it went in -- for real. I knew it was going in."
UD Jesuit's first-year skipper would not be surprised by Appling's late-game heroics against Henry Ford. Donnelly believes that Appling is the best player in the state regardless of class. That opinion was cemented by the way the future Spartan took over down the stretch against his ballclub.
"The difference here tonight is that they have a go-to guy in Appling that coach Izzo has to be pretty happy about getting because he might be the best player in the state right now," said Donnelly. "He does it all. He handles the ball well, he can create shot for himself. He can shoot the perimeter jump shot, he defends. He does everything and he is an absolute complete player. If there is a better player in the state, I would like to see him."
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