Tri-Unity Wins Fifth State Title, Catholic Fails In Bid For Second
Two Grand Rapids area schools made it to the state championship games in their respective divisions, with both games going into overtime.
Tri-Unity Christian Won Their Fifth State Title under Coach Mark Keeler
The Defenders came alive in the second half, and then dominated Ewen-Trout Creek in overtime to earn their fifth state title in the long, storied career of head coach Mark Keeler.
All-State guard Brady Titus scored 23 of his 33 points in the second half as the Defenders overcame a seven point half time deficit to win 56-45 in overtime. It was the Defenders first title for Keeler since 2011 under the old "Class D" classification.
“Being in high school and being on the biggest stage, I just wanted to go out there and have fun, appreciate everything I’ve been through been through for myself and as a team,” Titus told reporters after the game.
The Defenders Suffocating Defense Down The Stretch Made the Difference
Once again, it was Tri-Unity's stifling defense they spelled the difference, as they held the Panthers to just 15 points after half time, and just two points in the extra four minute overtime.
Jared Borseth of Ewen-Trout Creek hit a three pointer with 45 seconds left to give the Panthers a 43-41 lead. Titus tied with a driving lay up with 12 seconds left to tie it a 43-43, which is where it ended after regulation.
In the overtime, the Panthers were forced into three quick turnovers by the Defenders, and then Hanif James came up with the play of the game, blocking a layup attempt by Borseth in the final minute of overtime, and then scored a bucket to put the Defenders up 49-45 with 33 seconds left.
“I’m very proud of my guys and proud they didn’t quit,” said Tri-Unity coach Mark Keeler. “Brady does it so often that I hate to say it... you kind say, ‘Wow, again?’ He is the humblest, kindest young man, not arrogant, gets a little frustrated at times like today at halftime. He had to come down off the cliff a little bit. But I can’t say enough good things about him.”
Catholic Central Falls Short In Quest For Division 2 Repeat
In the nightcap of four championship games Saturday at MSU's Breslin Center, the Cougars of Catholic Central lost to undefeated Williamston, 68-65 in Division 2.
Williamston got out to a hot start, but the Cougars caught them, and took the lead back briefly in the first half, before the Hornets rode a hot streak to an 8 point half time advantage.
The Cougars fell behind by 16, 53-37, with just a minute left in the third period before regrouping and staging a wild fourth quarter rally.
Point guard Kaden Brown scored seven points points in the first five minutes of the fourth quarter, and Jack Karasinski hit a long range triple and scored a lay up off a steal to get CC right back into the battle.
The Cougars Late Rally Sends Game Into Overtime
They eventually tied the game at 55 with 2:18 left in the game, but lost Karasinski to fouls with 1:28 left. The Hornets seemed to get the momentum back, seizing a 59-55 lead. But CC refused to yield.
Brown was fouled with 47 seconds left, made the first free throw, but missed the second. The Cougars got the rebound and found Brown at the three point line, where he drained the triple to tie the game at 59-59.
Brown had a chance to win it in regulation, but his long desperation heave sailed high.
The Hornets Seized Momentum Back In What Is Being Called An 'Instant Classic'
In overtime, the Hornets regrouped and led by seniors Mason Docks, who banged in a clutch three pointer and Max Burton, who nailed a shot off the glass, got an early lead in the extra stanza and then held off another Cougar rally to get the school's first state title since 1940.
“That is the personality of the team,” senior Jacob Wallace told the Free Press after the win. “It all comes back to Coach (Tom) Lewis and our coaching staff. They do a good job at making sure we keep our heads. A lot of our players get some hype and our team gets some hype, but we really don’t try to focus on that.”
Catholic Central Coach T.J. Meerman was proud of the effort his Cougars put forth, “Tonight was an absolute battle of wills — their will to take over the game, and our will to come back.”
The Team Wore Shirts Honoring A Teammate Who Was Undergoing Surgery
The Catholic Central team sported shirts that read, "KYLE STRONG", a reference to freshman basketball player, Kyle Killebrew, a cousin of CC forward Nate VanTimmeren, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor on Thursday. Coach Meerman said the young man underwent surgery Friday and his prognosis is good.
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