ROYAL OAK – Pharoh Johnson didn’t like the idea of coming off the bench for Ferndale in his senior year.
“I wasn’t too happy about it to start the season, but I know it’s not about me – it’s about the team,” Johnson said Friday after he warmed up to his sixth man role with a game-high 16 points to lead the Eagles to a 64-54 victory over Royal Oak in an Oakland Activities Association Blue Division game.
“I see us starting to play scrappy,” Johnson said. “We’re starting bring a lot of toughness.”
Senior Jalin Warr added 11 points as Ferndale improved to 6-5 overall and 4-3 in the OAA Blue.
“We’re trying to stay consistent on how we play,” Ferndale second-year coach Herb Goliday said Friday. “We take great pride in conditioning at practice. Tonight our shots were falling.
“But Royal Oak kept fighting to the end,” Goliday said. “Our traps caused problems. I would change our defensive sets when they called a timeout – trying to keep them on edge.”
Senior guard Dante Valente notched a team-high 14-points for Royal Oak, who dropped to 7-5 overall and 2-4 in the OAA Blue Division.
“We scratched to come back but Johnson and Warr hit big 3s for them late,” Royal Oak coach Mike Massucci said Friday. “Royal Oak players aren't going to quit.”
Senior Mitch LaCombe converted a layup to cut Ferndale's lead to 61-54 late, but it would be the closest the Ravens would get the rest of the way behind the hot-shooting Williams.
“Pharoh is instant offense off the bench for us,” Goliday said. “I think we’re peaking right now. We have to continue to work hard at practice and keep peaking.”
Royal Oak sophomore guard Gavin Boswell's third 3-pointer of the night cut Ferndale's lead to 55-46 with 2:47 to play. But Johnson canned three free throws for a 58-48 lead with 2 minutes left and Justin Kearney (9 points) hit three important free throws down the stretch.
Robert Deiz (8 points) hit a long jumper to stop an 8-0 run by Royal Oak and give the Eagles a 50-39 lead with 5 minutes left.
But it was Johnson again knocking down a 3-pointer at the buzzer to end the third quarter to give the Eagles a commanding 48-31 margin - the largest lead of the game.
The Ravens came right back with an 8-0 run culminated by LaCombe's fall-away jumper to cut the deficit to 48-39 with 6:31 left to play.
Two Johnson free throws gave Ferndale a 43-31 advantage with 58 seconds left that followed back- to-back shots by Warr that stretched Ferndale’s lead to 39-31.
A fake-left and a turn-around hook by Royal Oak senior center Trevor Beerer (6 points) made it 27-23 at halftime in favor of the Eagles.
Ravens senior Erich Grohs (8 points) - who had his wisdom teeth taken out just a week prior - hit a 3-pointer to make it 25-21 after Valente scored four straight points to cut the lead to 23-16.
Nate Brisson-Fast (8 points) scored off the backboard to give Ferndale an early18-10 lead. Again it was Johnson knocking down two straight jumpers from the corner for a 23-12 advantage.
The 6-foot-2 Johnson scored 8 points off the bench in the first half for the Eagles, who were 14-for-25 at the free throw line compared to 8-of-19 for Royal Oak on the night.
The host Ravens trailed 13-7 after the first quarter. Junior Nick Metcalfe (9 points) and Beerer scored on back-to-back buckets in the paint early.
Deiz hit a 3-pointer and Warr scored on a fast break as Ferndale jumped out to a 9-0 lead, which Massucci looked back and lamented.
LaCombe (7 points) scored the first bucket of the game for the Ravens with 4 minutes left in the quarter.
“When you start game down 9-0 it’s tough,” Massucci said. “We were uncharacteristic. Trying to explain the psychology of a high school basketball player is difficult.”
Royal Oak will play Farmington on Thursday. The Falcons are atop the OAA Blue standings.
“We are going to look to improve and get ready for Farmington on Thursday,” Massucci said. “This is life in the Blue Division. Everyone is good and you just have to be ready.
“We did have some balance tonight,” he continued. “I’m disappointed we lost but not disappointed in my guys. We just have to figure it out.”
Ferndale will play at Lake Orion on Monday in an OAA crossover game before the Eagles entertain Hazel Park on Thursday.