Sam Dillard threw his hands into the air, almost pleading for the ball as he ran alone past the half-court line toward the basket.
Once he gripped the long pass all he had to do was spin to his left, dribble a couple times and a brilliant 40-point night belonged to him.
“I knew it was 40,” he said. “Once I got to 36 and 38. That’s when I started to want to get it bad.”
Fenton players gathered around mid-court to celebrate an 81-68 road victory over Linden, a second consecutive Flint Metro League Stripes Division title along with Dillard’s 40-point gem.
The Tigers needed every point because Linden kept stalking and poking at a lead that swelled to as many as 17 points. But center Reed Krueger (20 points) kept fighting. Junior center Jase Becher (15 points) pounded the boards more effectively in the second half as Linden drew to within single digits.
The real hero for Linden this night was junior point guard Carter Bushon – the Eagles Energizer bunny – who scored 10 points, dove all over the floor and got Fenton super star Ja’Hion Bond in foul trouble with his aggressive play. Bond fouled out with 3:38 remaining after scoring 22 points.
The potent one-two punch of Dillard and Bond has carried Fenton the last two seasons. Both eclipsed the 1,000-point barrier and are waiting to finalize college offers.
Fenton got more good news after the game. Red-hot Flint Kearsley knocked off league co-leader Holly 79-74, giving Fenton the outright title.
“I think we are peaking now,” said Fenton Coach Todd Schroeder. “In the past our defense hasn’t been the greatest. We just want to score. I think our defense has stepped up. I think we are peaking as a team and individuals are finding an opportunity to give their best five or six minutes on the court, come out, and celebrate their teammates.”
Practices were intense and rugged this week inside the Fenton gym. Although the Tigers (15-5 overall, 9-1 in the conference) were winning, they were losing the battle on the boards. Teams routinely grabbed 18 to 20 offensive boards. They only gave up seven offensive boards against Linden.
“We challenged the boys to (limit) offensive rebounds,” Schroeder said. “Win that side and away we go.”
Linden (12-8, 5-5) finished fourth in the conference heading into cross over play and then district competition. The future looks bright. Juniors Bushon and Becher return along with sophomore Landon Jones.
Linden pounded the boards the first time the teams met in Fenton. This time Fenton turned the tables.
“Obviously it was a high energy environment,” Linden Coach Matt Christensen said. “We came out flat and could not make a shot. Our team always plays hard. We came out and settled down in the second half. We just got killed on the offensive glass.”