There’s No Place Like Home After a Much-Needed Win
Above: Senior Jon Wilkerson’s five free throws in the fourth quarter Tuesday helped secure East Lansing’s 60-51 victory over St. Johns.
A fourth straight win Tuesday night gave East Lansing senior guard Jon Wilkerson plenty to be satisfied about, but it was the home floor ice-breaker that prompted the biggest smile of all.
And a huge sigh of relief.
Wilkerson tallied 13 points, including five key free throws in the fourth quarter, to help lift the East Lansing boys basketball team to a 60-51 victory over St. Johns. After three home losses to start the season – albeit against the likes of Williamston, DeWitt and Okemos – the Trojans finally had a chance to celebrate on Burcham Drive.
“A lot of pressure relieved, especially being oh-and-three at home to start,” said Wilkerson. “Just to get that first ‘W’ here takes the burden off. The student section was behind us again, and that always means a lot.”
East Lansing, now 8-4 overall, led 44-41 entering the fourth quarter after St. Johns had trimmed the margin in half on a desperation, turnaround three-pointer by DeMarquis Washington.
Neither Wilkerson nor East Lansing head coach Ray Mitchell was fazed by the brief shift in momentum.
“That’s part of the game,” said Mitchell. “We’ve made some shots like that and we’ve had them made against us. You just need to pull up your bootstraps and get back after it.”
“Crazy three,” Wilkerson said. “We looked around and wondered, ‘That really went in?’ We knew we could not let it affect us.”
Sophomore forward Andrel Anthony sparked a fourth quarter surge with two key baskets: the first on a fast break layup after a St. Johns turnover that put the Trojans ahead 49-43 with 3:59 to play; the second on a rebound basket off a miss by freshman guard Mason Woods to preserve the six-point lead (53-47) with 1:50 to play.
“Andrel can score in a lot of different ways,” Mitchell said, “and he knows that. The key for him is to play with some pace and pick his spots. Not easy to do, but he’s learning.”
Woods contributed 10 points, including two treys, while senior forward Nick Beekman and junior forward Malakai Matthews scored six points each.
Senior forward Cole Thomas led St. Johns in scoring with 20 points.
The home-court victory, also Mitchell’s first as head coach of the Trojans, means that he’ll have one less line to write on the locker room board prior to Friday’s home game against Waverly.
“Before each game I put our home record on the board, but you know, we’ve played some tough teams at home,” Mitchell said. “You can learn from winning but you learn even more from losing sometimes … we’re not afraid to play tough opponents because it’s only going to make you better at the end of the year.”
Trojan girls extend their mark to 11-0
East Lansing cruised to its 11th straight win of the season, 65-28 at St. Johns, behind a balanced offense and a stingy defense. Junior forward Aaliyah Nye led the Trojans in scoring with 17 points and plenty of support from Annelise Lebeda (10 points), Sanaya Gregory (8), Bre’Naya Lane (8) and Allie Mayes (8).
East Lansing led 27-5 at halftime after limiting St. Johns to one field goal and three free throws in the first half.
Next up: The Trojans host Waverly in a doubleheader Friday beginning with the boys game at 6 p.m., followed by the girls tipoff at approximately 7:30 p.m.