It was just like the good old days.  That's what fans and alums were saying Friday night after a packed Okemos gymnasium saw the hometown Chiefs knock off the top ten ranked East Lansing Trojans, 64-56.  The Okemos victory netted the Chiefs (15-4; 12-2 CAAC Blue) their first conference championship since the 2010-11 season.  And despite the off-the-court distractions, the game lived up to its hype.  The Chiefs came out of the gate firing, as Gerald Sambear III & Jordan Henry knocked down three 3-pointers and gave Okemos an early 11-2 lead, forcing interim Trojans coach Kevin Mayes to call a time out.  East Lansing (15-3; 11-3 CAAC Blue) responded with buckets from Jack Morse, Justin McAbee & Michigan Wolverines commit Brandon Johns.  The game was close after the 1st and you could feel the energy in the building.  You could sense something special was in the air.  After the whistle sounded for the 2nd quarter, the East Lansing defense starred.  The Trojans were smothering the Chiefs, forcing a few turnovers and getting hoops from Johns & McAbee again.  And with Jordan Henry struggling to find a shot, a few diminutive guards stepped up.  Sophomore Noah Pruitt & Junior Fabian Leone put in the only two field goals for Okemos in that quarter.  This CAAC Blue title game was tied at 27 a piece heading into the halftime break.  The Chiefs again built up their lead early in the 3rd, thanks to Henry & Thomas.  But then it was time for the Trojans' bench to shine.  Back-to-back buckets by Ben Zeka cut the lead to 1, before a floater at the buzzer from Evan Thomas made it 43-40 Okemos.  Foul trouble and free throws became the story of the 4th.  Justin McAbee picked up his 3rd & 4th ones in the third and forced the East Lansing big man to the bench.  Same for Thomas of Okemos (the main defender of Brandon Johns).  And that caused each team to find help from their reserves.  Junior Zach Hetfield was called upon to guard Johns despite giving up 9 inches.  He was given help via double and triple teams, but Johns was too much and was continually sent to the free throw line.  However, the Senior forward wasn't able to sink his shots.  Brandon went 5-13 in the 4th in what would be the final stanza, missing 5 straight at one point.  Meanwhile, Okemos was just trying to hold on to their slim lead.  Thomas & Henry kept finding themselves on the charity stripe and missing as well.  However, the difference was that the Chiefs made just enough of them when it counted.  And when their student section started chanting "We Believe That We Will Win!", you knew that there would be no 3-peat as CAAC Blue champs for East Lansing.  And when the final buzzer sounded, Chiefs' fans stormed the court and celebrated their first league title in 7 years.  Okemos was led by Evan Thomas' 17 points & 8 rebounds.  Jordan Henry contributed 16 points.  The two shot 16-23 from the free throw line combined.  East Lansing was paced by Brandon Johns who had 25 points & 14 rebounds.  Justin McAbee was the only other Trojan in double figures with 11 points before fouling out midway through the 4th.  East Lansing was playing without head coach Steve Finamore who was suspended for the game after a verbal altercation with a player's parent and then athletic director Tom Hunt Wednesday.


Okemos Chiefs:

EVAN THOMAS: 17 pts, 8 reb, 8-12 FT

JORDAN HENRY: 16 pts, 3 reb, 2 stl

NOAH PRUITT: 11 pts, 5 reb



East Lansing Trojans:

BRANDON JOHNS: 25 pts, 14 reb, 2 blk



MALIK JONES: 3 pts, 7 ast

More From The Game 730 WVFN-AM