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Hazel Park beats Groves for outright OAA Gold title WITH PHOTO GALLERY

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HAZEL PARK – Not even a snowstorm or a red-hot Birmingham Groves team could prevent Hazel Park from feeling as good as gold on Tuesday.

The Vikings entered Tuesday’s Oakland Activities Association Gold Division finale against Groves having already clinched a share of their first league title since 1996, but wanted nothing more than to make the title all theirs in front of an enthusiastic community that braved the elements to see a piece of basketball history at the school.

Hazel Park ended up doing its part, holding off a late Groves rally to earn a 64-60 win and cinch the outright OAA Gold title, a feat more impressive since Hazel Park is a team dominated by sophomores.

“I was skeptical at first because we were so young,” Hazel Park head coach Brandon Barrett said of his team’s title chances when the year started. “But these guys don’t quit. For them to be a bunch of sophomores and be led by just one senior, they have played incredibly hard. We have just been maturing and growing.”

Dispatching Groves was certainly not an easy chore, especially since the Falcons entered the game on a six-game winning streak and had an opportunity to win a share of the league title since they were a game behind Hazel Park.

The Vikings led 17-4 after the first quarter and never trailed the entire game, but repeatedly had to fend off rallies by Groves that made the contest a one-possession game on numerous occasions in the second half.

Groves pulled to within one point at 45-44 with 5:58 remaining, but back-to-back 3-pointers by sophomores Carl Bow and Devin Pettus helped the Vikings take a 51-46 lead with 4:24 left.

Hazel Park appeared to finally put Groves away by taking a 60-53 lead with 53.8 seconds left, but Groves scored five consecutive points to pull within 60-58 with 26.5 seconds to go.

But Bow drained a pair of free throws with 26.5 seconds remaining, James Jenkins hit a free throw with 16.9 seconds to go and then Bow hit a free throw with 10.4 seconds left to give Hazel Park a 64-58 lead and essentially wrap up the game.

Bow scored 19 points, Jenkins had 14 points and sophomore Dan Hearns added 13 points to lead Hazel Park (13-6), which finished 9-1 in league play.

“Credit to Groves,” Barrett said. “They really fought back and they have been doing that all year. They have been a second-half team.”

Marcus Pittman scored a game-high 24 points to lead Groves (13-6, 7-3), which is playing so well at the moment that it should be considered a contender to win a district hosted by Auburn Hills Avondale next week.

The other teams in the district will be Bloomfield Hills, Birmingham Brother Rice and Birmingham Seaholm.

“This was the fastest-game and the highest-level game we have played in a while,” Groves head coach Marc West said. “Maybe it took us the first quarter to adjust, but we played a great last three quarters.”

Last Updated: 3/1/2016 10:50:26 PM EST


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