I had a solid plan for Saturday. My daughter was playing at 1:00 which would leave me plenty of time to get to Washington by 6:00. I would watch that game and then run up to Piper. A full day of basketball was in front of me and a chance to see the rubber match between Schlagle and Washington was a good appetizer for a wild evening in SHUKC land.
The unfortunate story line heading into this game was that Washington would be without Randy Campbell who took a nasty fall in the first round game against Lansing. I don’t care what team you are on. If you take a double double out of the line up it is going to have an impact and someone was going to have to step up for the Wildcats if they were going to get to state for a 3rd straight year.
Rest assured no one on the Schlagle bench was going to feel sorry for the Wildcats as they were chopping at the bit to get back into the state tournament. The Stallions were a year removed from finishing 7-14 and searching for a new coach. 2017 SHUKC coach of the year candidate Prentes Potts has come in and completely flipped the script entering the game 15-6.
I don’t believe you can ever really understand the difference between playing basketball with tomorrow and the next game guaranteed and when the next step is the off season if you lose. “Geology is the study of pressure and time.” said Morgan Freeman in Shawshank Redemption. Substate basketball on Saturday night was all pressure with little time left for both of these teams.
The Wildcats came out like a team that has been there before, understanding the necessity to bring it for the entire game. They jumped out in the first quarter 11-6 over Schlagle who started the game incredibly flat. Washington packed into a 2-3 zone and Schlagle advised with a number of missed 3 point attempts. Contested layups were being turned away. Demarco Smith was at the rim playing like Mutumbo.
Washington extended the lead to 17-6 and I sat there jaw dropped at how poorly Schlagle was playing. The shots simply were not falling. I don’t have the score book but the 6 points they did have were off offensive rebounds. Tyon Grant-Foster wasn’t getting many touches as his only shot in the offensive flow was an air ball 3. The Wildcats had a solid game plan and were executing it behind Smith.
Rocky 4 is one of my favorite movies as a kid. Ivan Drago fought Apollo Creed in an exhibition match. With a lot of flare Creed bounced around the ring smacking the Russian Drago. Drago was shell shocked a bit but never threw a punch through the better part of the first round before unleashing his power.
Please do not ask me why but literally this is what I thought about as I watched the remainder of the first half. Schlagle did NOTHING in the first half but Tyon Grant-Foster in a moment decided to make his case for SHUKC POY. He went on a personal 8-0 run and the staggered Wildcats held the ball for the final minute and a half looking to slow the momentum Schlagle had gotten. With 4 second left however they turned the ball over and Grant-Foster finished the half with a dunk to tie the game at 17. In that moment we had ourselves a ball game!
It would be a night of runs as Schlagle held onto the momentum they had stolen from the Wildcats in the first half to build a 23-19 lead. The Stallions were on a 17-2 extended run and had the look that they wanted to blow the Wildcats out of their gym. Senior Marcus Henderson of the Wildcats who transferred from Schlagle a few years back was not on board with that idea. He powered Washington on a 9-5 run to close out the quarter. Guess what? We were tied after 3 28-28.
There was just not a lot of offense as both coaches were content in their zones and shortening the game. Grant-Foster had quieted down a bit and was battling foul trouble. Up one early in the fourth quarter he picked up his fourth foul reaching in against Smith. I noted the 6:30 time because this was going to be a test for the rest of the Stallions who honestly hadn’t done a heck of a lot to that point. Almost literally nothing happened down the stretch. I am not saying the kids were not playing hard but they scored 18 points between them and we were tied at 37 with 18.5 remaining with Washington in possession.
Coach King called the timeout to set his final play and the execution was just not that good. They got a clean look as time expired but I just hated even the thought of Demarco Smith passing the ball with a chance to win the game.
In the OT Schlagle’s Dominique Sanders made his mark on the game. We watched a lot of free throws as Schlagle built a slight advantage. D’Monte Gaw knocked down some free throws as well to seal the win for the Schlagle Stallions 48-46. Congrats to the Schlagle Stallions and coaching staff.
Props to the crowd at Washington as I thought it was a very competitive and intense game despite the low scoring output. The players on both teams played their hearts out and provided me a reminder why I love high school sports. I hope and pray that each of these young men attack life just as they played this game Saturday night. If you do then the sky is the limit for anything you try to accomplish.