EAST LANSING -- It was a confirmation.
Melvindale Academy of Business and Technology started the season ranked No. 1 in Class C.
The Gators finished No. 1, too, beating Suttons Bay 59-43 in the Class C state basketball final at Michigan State's Breslin Center on Saturday.
Melvindale ABT never trailed in putting the final touches on a 26-2 season.
"They're a good team," Suttons Bay star Dwaun Anderson said. "They were ranked No. 1 so we knew it was going to be tough to come in here and try to get a win."
The Gators also won the state championship game a year ago, but had to vacate the title for using an ineligible player.
"That was our motivation, really," ABT senior guard Michael Talley III said. "That sat in the back of our minds the whole season. We just wanted to get back here and prove that it wasn't a fluke. That we could really win it. We just looked in each others eyes and said, 'We've got to get it done.'"
The Gators, using their quickness on the perimeter and size in the interior, made it difficult on the Norsemen, who had won 25 games in a row to reach the final. Suttons Bay was held to 14 points in the first half as ABT took a 15-point lead into the break.
"They got after us pretty good," Suttons Bay coach Todd Hursey said. "We had a game plan of getting the ball to the middle and just trying to attack that pressure. But that's easier said than done. Their quickness took away the drive and their quickness took away passes and cuts. We played against some quickness like that last summer, but in the regular season we didn't see anything close to it. It was too much to handle."
ABT coach Michael Talley Jr. thought his team's man-to-man pressure might give the Norsemen fits.
"We want to be the aggressors," he said. "We won a lot of games by dictating the tempo. We're not going to sit back and let other teams try to dictate the tempo and the outcome. We wanted to put pressure on them because we didn't think they were used to playing teams like ours."
The Norsemen shot 31.4 percent for the game -- 21.4 percent in the first half. The Gators made it especially hard on Anderson, who was 7-for-24 from the field. Anderson finished with 16 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks.
"It was tough," Anderson said. "They had good pressure on us. They were bigger, stronger, faster. We did all we could."
ABT stretched its lead to 20 points in the second half. The Norsemen pulled to within 12 in the fourth quarter, but could get no closer.
"This has been a great run for Suttons Bay," Hursey said. "We're proud of our effort. We ran into a great team. But I'm so proud of our guys. They fought right down to the end."
Although Talley III, the two-time Associated Press Class C Player of the Year, finished with 16 points, it was 6-foot-7 center Yakimi Noble who really hurt the Norsemen. He finished with 19 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks in dominating the paint.
"He's a nice player, just so fundamentally strong," Hursey said. "He takes his time in the post and keeps the ball up high."
Working the ball inside to Noble was a big part of ABT's game plan.
"We try to play inside out," Talley Jr. said. "Yakimi is our best post player. He has a very good IQ of the game. We try to get him as many touches as we can."
ABT outscored the Norsemen 38-18 in the paint.
The Norsemen played a box-and-one on Talley III and did a good job slowing him down.
"We felt pretty good in the box-and-one," Hursey said. "But we struggled to get in front of their post players. That was the difference in the first half. Once they started getting the ball down low in the post, once their bigs caught it down there, we just couldn't stop them."
Marcel Smith also scored 16 points for the Gators.
Noah Reyhl and Chase Palmer followed Anderson in the scoring column for the Norsemen. They had six points apiece.
Suttons Bay hit just 3 of 16 shots from beyond the 3-point arc.
"We knew we had to knock down some 3s," Hursey said. "We didn't and that made it a lot tougher to stay in it."
The Norsemen return four key players next season, but lose four seniors in Palmer, Shane Kaufman, David Wheelock and Marcus Russell.
"I'm so proud of our four seniors," Hursey said. "They're a big reason why we're here. But we do feel good about who we return. This is a great experience for our young guys."
Talley Jr. won three Class A state championships in high school at Detroit Cooley, but he said winning the title as a coach, especially with his son on the team, is more fulfilling.
"To really build something at a small school, I think we have about 300 kids, and accomplish something like this, is big for our school and community," he said.''