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March 18, 2013

Cousino wins first district title in 33 years, falls in regional semi

By Jason Carmel Davis
C & G Sports Writer

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The Warren Cousino boys basketball team beat teams that were a combined 37-7 to win a MHSAA Class A district title. The Patriots bested Warren De La Salle 66-58 March 8 in a district final. Pictured is Cousino senior forward Tony Aldridge during a district semifinal win over Warren Mott.

GROSSE POINTE — Second-year Warren Cousino boys basketball coach Chris Shepard is a graduate of Warren Mott High, where he also played basketball.

Shepard said he understands what it means to beat Warren De La Salle in the Michigan High School Athletic Association state playoffs, calling the Pilots “the team to beat around here for years.”

That’s what Shepard and his Patriots did — beat De La Salle to win a MHSAA Class A district title. Cousino bested the Pilots 66-58 March 8 at Fraser to claim the program’s first district crown since 1980.

“To beat a team like (De La Salle) is quite an accomplishment,” Shepard said after the March 8 triumph. “I’m a Warren Consolidated graduate. I went to Mott. (DLS) is the team in this area, and they have been for years. For our kids to step up here and stay together as a team, match their energy and the crowd that they bring, it’s something special I’ll never forget.”

De La Salle, which bested Warren Woods Tower 59-57 in overtime March 6 to advance to the district final, had won 14 straight district titles before the March 8 setback. That run gave Pilots coach Greg Esler the longest streak of its kind in the state.

“We saw (Cousino) a million times,” Esler said. “We just didn’t get it done tonight.

“I’m disappointed we didn’t win the (Catholic League) Central Division. We didn’t win the Catholic League and we didn’t win a district. But on the other hand, we had no starters from last year’s team who played in the district tournament. We lost all five to graduation.”

Tied at 44 going into the fourth quarter, neither team held more than an eight-point lead at any point in the contest. The Patriots (15-8) outscored the Pilots (17-5) 22-14 in the final stanza to secure the win. Half of Cousino’s fourth-quarter points came via free throws. The Patriots, which knocked off city rival Warren Mott 59-55 to reach the district final, went 11 for 16 from the line in the fourth.

“(De La Salle) was coming at us hard with a half-court trap, and we were just trying to get the ball in and get it to the baseline,” Shepard said. “These kids have worked hard all season long. I’ve been dreaming about something like this ever since I decided I wanted to be a coach.”

Cousino, which was 9-7 at one point, wasn’t able to build on its success, falling 51-31 to Detroit Southeastern in a Class A regional final played at Grosse Pointe North. The Patriots managed just seven points in the first half, but outscored the Jungaleers 24-21 in the second half.

“We just weren’t here tonight,” Shepard said. “It was a quick turnaround (from our district title game March 8). We had a chance to do some things tonight, and we just didn’t do it.”

What the Patriots did do was bring Cousino its first district title in 33 years. Patriots senior swingman Cory Vicks said toughness played the biggest role in his team winning the district championship.

“We’re strong, mentally,” said Vicks, who netted 15 points in the title-clinching game. “We learned how to play together and stick by each other. This is unbelievable.”