March 25, 2009

VIDEO: Nix, Appling get Doughboys back to Breslin

DETROIT - Playing in his first game since being named the 2009 recipient of the Hal Schram Mr. Basketball Award given annually to the top senior in the state of Michigan, Michigan State signee Derrick Nix more than lived up to his new title Tuesday evening in his team's Class A quarterfinal game at Calihan Hall on the campus of University of Detroit Mercy.

Nix finished the game with 25 points and 19 rebounds while matched up against DeLaSalle center Kevin McCarthy, a 6-foot-9, 240-pound center who has signed with Lehigh. The Michigan State-bound senior scored the Doughboys first 10 points as Pershing pounded the ball inside early before getting plenty of perimeter scoring opportunities in the second half on their way to a 62-52 win over the Detroit Catholic School League champs.

An early frontrunner for the 2010 Mr. Basketball Award, Michigan State commitment Keith Appling exploded for 18 points in the third quarter of game that was tied 21-21 at halftime. The Pershing junior finished the game with 31 points.

"We went inside-out, and after we got it going inside the threes came," explained Nix. "We showed good pick-and-rolls, but I think we came away with the victory because we fought a little bit harder."

DeLaSalle dictated tempo in the first half.

"Coach (Greg) Esler does a great job with those guys," said Pershing coach A.W. Canada. "I can't say enough about what he does with his guys. I just think our guys persevered. They ran their stuff and they got us a little bit weary in the first half. But like I said, our guys persevered and we played our kind of basketball in the second half."

Nix and Appling had to elevate their play as Pershing entered Tuesday's quarterfinal without the services of Juwan Howard Jr., who had an infected cut that required minor surgery on his right pinky finger. It is unclear whether Howard Jr. will be available to play in his team's Class A semifinal game against Romulus on Friday afternoon.

"We just want to get everybody into college, keep everybody on the honor roll, and get to the Breslin Center and win," said Nix. "That is about it."

Both Nix and Appling spoke to Howard Jr. by phone after their win over DeLaSalle.

"He should be back, but we aren't sure yet," explained Nix. "I talked to him before the game and he said, Nix I got faith in you all. When you've got faith, there isn't anything better than that. He had faith and we came out and put on a show for him.

Added Appling: "He is doing alright. He is proud of us and hopefully he will be back on Friday. I think he will play. If he can suck it up, he will play."

Appling found it difficult to get his offense going in the first half in the absence of Howard.

"It was different," explained the Pershing junior. "He is like my scoring buddy. I am used to seeing him on the court with me, but tonight he wasn't there. We compliment each other's game well."

Nix set the tone with is inside play early. He took it to McCarthy on both ends of the floor, scoring over and blocking the shot of the Lehigh signee. McCarthy scored 11 points for DeLaSalle. Only five of those points came when Nix was on the floor.

"He had a good game," said Nix, "but I don't really know if he was scared or what was the problem. He was missing easy lay-ups and stuff like that."

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