WARREN, Mich. — Having lost four of its last five games has taken a bit of a toll on the De La Salle Collegiate basketball team.
So Friday night's 45-36 win over Detroit Henry Ford tasted just a little bit sweeter for the Pilots, whose last game was a tough, 52-47 loss to Detroit Loyola six days earlier.
"You've got to build momentum and (Edsel Ford) is good," said head coach Greg Esler, whose team improved to 11-7 on the season with the win. "They lost to (No. 3-ranked) Cass Tech by one. I thought we did a good job of mixing it up tonight."
Though the Trojans scored the first four points of the game, De La Salle quickly answered with a 9-0 run and never trailed again. That doesn't mean Ford folded. Despite building a 30-17 lead midway through the third quarter, the Pilots had to fend off the Trojans the rest of the way.
Ford used a 9-0 run to cut De La Salle's lead to 30-26 with 3:05 remaining in the third. On its ensuing possession, the Pilots forced a turnover and junior guard Will Smythe scored off a layup to stop the bleeding. It was 32-26 at the end of the third.
Ford's Mario Hill hit a 3-pointer, one of his team's five in the game, to open the fourth quarter and would add another moment later to cut De La Salle's lead to just two at 34-32. But the Pilots would regain control, using a 6-0 lead to up its lead back to eight points. Senior forward Nick Troszak scored inside, Smythe scored off a pass from junior point guard Linden Holder and then Holder hit a pair of free throws to give his team some breathing room.
De La Salle hit 9-of-11 free throws in the second half, with senior guard Josef Gjonaj connecting on 5-of-6 himself, to help the team pull away.
Holder led all scorers with 16 points, while Troszak had 10 and Gjonaj seven for De La Salle.
"I thought A.J. Whitehead was really good tonight, same with Linden," Esler noted. "We moved the ball, we rebounded. They were getting one shot and we were running our offense good. If you hold a (Detroit Public School League) team to 36 points, that's pretty darn good."
With all the injuries and illnesses his team has faced over the second half of the season, Holder said it's really important that his team finds a way to get back to how it played early in the season.
"We need to bring some positivity back, get everyone into a good mood, playing together," Holder said. "We need to get back on track heading into the playoffs and make a deep run."
De La Salle will host Detroit Denby Tuesday, with the game beginning at 4:30 p.m.