FERNDALE – The Ferndale boys basketball team’s 11-game win streak came to a screeching halt on Tuesday night against Detroit Country Day.
The Yellowjackets turned a close game into a blowout at the end of the third quarter and cruised to an 88-59 win on the road.
“We knew coming in that Ferndale was very talented, but we also thought they weren’t real deep,” Country Day coach Kurt Keener said. “Our game plan was to just press and press to wear them down. And I think that’s what happened. When they got tired they started turning the ball over.”
Through the first three and a half quarters, Ferndale (12-4; 6-0 Oakland Activities Association White) kept pace with the Yellowjackets. Country Day went into halftime clinging to a 32-31 lead and both offenses enjoyed the up-tempo pace.
With 3:03 left in the third, Jermaine King threw down a thunderous one-handed slam to get the Eagles’ home crowd on their feet. Nate Stepney followed the dunk up with a 3-pointer to bring Ferndale within one point at 47-46.
But the burst of energy ran the Eagles’ gas tank to empty. Facing an aggressive full-court press, Ferndale turned the ball over four straight times and didn’t score another field goal until the fourth.
With an 11-1 run to end the quarter, the Yellowjackets sucked all the noise out of the gym
“I was absolutely shocked,” Ferndale coach Tom Staton said. “It was a one point game and then I looked up and we were down 11.”
Country Day (13-4) ended up outscoring the Eagles 56-28 in the second half. Keener had seven different players score at least six points. Robert Puleikis had a game-high 20, Mory Diane had 12 and Jordan Hall added 11.
Most of Puleikis’ baskets came from putbacks right under the rim. He cleaned up the offensive boards for Country Day, earning high praise from his coach after the game. Keener said, “It was easily his best game of the year.”
Stepney led the Eagles with 16 points. King had 15 and Jacob Dotson, who fouled out in the fourth quarter, had 12 and three blocks.
For Keener, it was more than just a run-of-the-mill regular season win. The Yellowjackets coach is a Ferndale alma mater and actually played with Staton when the two were in school together back in mid 1970's.
“Tommy was my best friend in high school,” Keener said. “We played on the same team. I have to believe this is the first game in the history of basketball where both coaches and a referee played together.”
Referee Mike Smith, who was part of the game’s officiating crew, played with Staton and Keener. Both Staton and Smith were from the class of ’75 while Keener graduated with the class of ’74.
Country Day doesn’t play against until next Tuesday when it heads to Flint Northwestern. Ferndale plays a game with big implications in the White division at home Friday against Troy. It will be senior night for the Eagles as they look to stay unbeaten in conference play.