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KEITH DUNLAP: Run to title game by Bloomfield Hills brings back memories of a county Cinderella

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Itís a good bet that none of his players knew about the history they had just made since they were not too far removed from diapers when it happened, but Bloomfield Hills boys basketball coach Duane Graves admitted he knew.

No Class A school from Oakland County had reached the state championship game in boys basketball since Pontiac Northern in 2002, but that drought died thanks to a resilient and determined Bloomfield Hills team, which will play for the Class A state title at noon on Saturday against Muskegon following an 85-75 win over Detroit U-D Jesuit in a Friday semifinal.

ďI knew that coming in being an (Oakland Activities Association) guy coming from top to bottom,Ē Graves said. ďBut we didnít talk about it. We let it go and just focused on what we had to do.Ē

But while the history books will officially correlate this Bloomfield Hills team with that Pontiac Northern squad in 2002, there should be a lot of hearts that relate Bloomfield Hills to another OAA school that made it to a state final in 2002.

There arenít many basketball pundits around Oakland County who will ever forget the 2002 Auburn Hills Avondale team, which entered the Class B state tournament that year unranked and the definition of a Cinderella story, but ended up knocking off favorite after favorite to win the state championship that year.

Of course, Bloomfield Hills was ranked most of the year and is nowhere near the Cinderella story Avondale was that year, but watching the Black Hawks the last couple of games canít help but make people feel that they are a clone of that Avondale team in 2002.

Just like Avondale had a frontcourt force in Mike Lewis that year, Bloomfield Hills has Yante Maten, who probably has netted dozens more scholarship offers from Division I college programs with his play this postseason.

When one of the top players for Bloomfield Hills, senior Khalil Gracey, was dismissed from the team before Tuesdayís quarterfinal, there seemed to be a better chance of somebody winning the billion dollar bracket contest than Bloomfield Hills continuing on without Gracey.

But just like Avondale in 2002, role players are playing way beyond their expectation.

Bloomfield Hills won its quarterfinal game and against a strong and perimeter-oriented U-D Jesuit squad, junior guard Cameron Dalton came off the bench to score 18 points and senior Xzavier Reynolds had 16 points. They also provided ball-handling against U-D Jesuitís press and defense against a talented group of U-D Jesuit guards.

Nobody probably envisioned Bloomfield Hills holding a 22-point lead over a favored U-D Jesuit squad late in the third quarter, but that was the case.

Not only are there physical similarities between the two squads, but the mental makeup is strikingly similar.

There just seems to be a vibe, an attitude and a belief that they wonít be denied despite all the obstacles.

Saturday will present the biggest obstacle, since No. 1 and unbeaten Muskegon is quick on the perimeter with Mr. Basketball winner Deshaun Thrower, and mean and nasty on the inside with junior and Michigan State commit Deyonta Davis.

But 12 years ago, another area team faced similar grim odds against a Grand Rapids South Christian team that had a gaudy record and multiple Division I college players in their starting lineup.

That team was Avondale, which completed its shocking journey to the title by beating South Christian in the Class B final.

Who knows if history will repeat itself on Saturday given how powerful Muskegon is.

Itís just the way this Bloomfield Hills team is playing and carrying itself, donít rule them out at all. If anybody continues to do so, the Black Hawks will walk out of Breslin Center on Saturday partying like Avondale in 2002.

Keith Dunlap is the high school sports coordinator at The Oakland Press. Email him at keith.dunlap@oakpress.com and follow him on Twitter @kd2578

Last Updated: 3/21/2014 9:29:57 PM EST

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