Name, image and likeness has to begin somewhere, so we might as well start with the potato chips.
Spectators at Friday’s Detroit Pershing-King semifinal could grab a bag of “Mr. Basketball Chips,” customized with a picture of King senior guard Chansey Willis Jr.
“I don’t even know, man,” Willis said. “My mama got that done. I didn’t even know about that before; she just told me. But I had some of the chips and I would say they taste good, really good. Everybody should go get ‘em, too. They’re selling ‘em at two for a dollar.”
While the blue-chipper polishes his sales pitch, it’s important to note that Willis came up big during crunch time. With upstart Pershing chipping away all night, Willis made things happen down the stretch in a 67-56 home-court victory.
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As King protected a 46-42 lead in the final minute of the third quarter, Willis whipped a cross-court pass to the corner, where Lamont Parks Jr. drained a 3-pointer to give the Crusaders some breathing room.
In the fourth quarter, Willis went to 6-foot-9 Matthew Coffey down low on four straight possessions. Coffey scored on three attempts and drew a foul on the other. Then Willis hit four of five free throws in the final minute to keep the Doughboys at bay.
“I knew they would come out and put up a fight, but we just had to get it done,” said Willis who finished with a team-high 24 points as the Crusaders (18-1) won their 18th straight.
“Statistically, he probably ended up with a good night, but I know he knows that he could have played a little bit better,” King coach George Ward said. “He kept his composure down the stretch and he saw what he was able to do. He’s a closer, that’s for sure, and we’re glad he’s on our side, but he knows he has to play a better floor game to be totally, totally effective.”
Parks had 16 and Coffey added 13 (with all but three coming in the second half), but Pershing (10-8) hung around long enough on the play of Therron Hill, who ended up with a game-high 34.
“At the end of it we started digging holes, doing stuff that we normally don’t do — rushing shots, turning the ball over. We’re guard-heavy, so we normally don’t turn the ball over, but it’s something to work on,” Pershing coach Shawn Hill said. “The big thing is offensive rebounds, what we were keying on the whole time, keeping them off the glass and eliminating the 50/50 shots. When they started getting those late, that’s what did it.”
King advances to Monday night’s Public School League championship at Oakland University’s O’rena against Detroit Western (15-3), which upset Detroit Cass Tech, 57-53, in Friday’s other semi-final. Willis said he was surprised that King will be playing against the Cowboys.
“We’ve got to go watch some film and get the job done,” he said. “We ain’t seen them in the regular season, but it’s going to be good. We’ve got to play smart, that’s what we’ve got to do. We can’t just come out and play one-on-one ball.”