Clutch Cass City Keeps Finding Last-Second Ways to Win During 13-1 Start
By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com
February 8, 2023
Aaron Fernald isn’t going to complain about his Cass City boys basketball team’s 13-1 start.
He’s happy that his players are finding ways to win games against solid competition.
But, with six of those wins having been decided during the final seconds, he wouldn’t mind if his team didn’t make it so stressful.
“I think the kids get more confident as you win those games, but as a coach, I don’t know if I get more confident,” Fernald said with a laugh. “We do practice situations, we get the clock out, and we’ve been doing that almost every week since the beginning of the season. But I really don’t have a great answer on all of it.”
There may not be an answer to why it’s happening, but the results are eye-opening.
It started Dec. 13, when junior Carter Patrick hit a 3-pointer with just under four seconds to play, giving the Red Hawks a 45-42 win against Millington.
Late 3s to win games are fun, and when they happen in December are typically a footnote to a season, and not the start of a trend. This, however, was the latter.
On Dec. 20, Patrick again scored the go-ahead points with a pair of free throws in the final seconds of a 55-54 win against Saginaw Nouvel.
Patrick struck again Jan. 4, hitting a go-ahead basket with five seconds to play in a 51-50 win against Saginaw Valley Lutheran.
On Jan. 18, Mike Fernald hit a buzzer-beater after a save under the basket by Tyler Cumper in a 47-45 win against Caro.
Trent Patrick had the most dramatic one nine days later, on Jan. 27, when he hit a 3-pointer from just inside halfcourt to defeat Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker 44-43.
Then Feb. 1, Carter Patrick again hit a game-winner, this time on a backdoor cut in the final seconds of a 46-45 victory against Bad Axe.
“I like to think it’s really good, because we’re figuring out how to win in key moments,” Carter Patrick said. “But we need to start getting a lead so we don’t have this pressure in games. I do think it’s preparing us for (the postseason) a lot, actually. If we get the ball at the end of a game, any game, I think the other team might get nervous themselves knowing that we’ve done this.”
Whether or not that’s the case, it’s pretty clear that Cass City won’t be nervous.
“The first couple, I was really nervous down the stretch,” Michael Fernald said. “A lot of other teammates were, too. But I think we’ve all got a lot more comfortable in those situations.”
Having three players who have scored game-winning baskets is a luxury for Cass City. But it goes well beyond that.
“We’ve got a team that kind of keeps hanging around and making a play,” Aaron Fernald said. “To get a buzzer-beater, we’ve had other guys not mentioned much that made plays to get us to that point. It’s kind of been a team effort that’s come from a lot of different people.”
Coming into the season, Aaron Fernald admitted he didn’t think this team could get to this point. He did think there would be improvement from recent years, however, as there were some key players back including Carter Patrick and Michael Fernald, who were each entering their third year on the varsity team.
Both of them, however, did think special things were on the horizon.
“This summer, I did,” Patrick said. “We were at team camp, and I thought this would be a better year for us. We had a really good chemistry, and we got along. We have a lot more fun together.”
That chemistry has been built over the course of several years, as many of the Red Hawks’ players have been playing together since they were kids.
The trust built through that, Patrick said, has helped in those clutch moments.
“We’ve all been friends for a really long time,” he said. “We’ve played a lot with each other, and I think we’ve gained a lot of trust. And if we miss the shot, nobody is going to get mad at each other.”
That group of friends has created some incredible memories already this season, the type that get talked about in town for years. But they’re looking for more – the type of memories that get put up on banners.
“It’s been special, but we haven’t really accomplished anything yet,” Michael Fernald said. “It would make it way more special if we can win some accolades along with it.”
Paul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Cass City’s Carter Patrick, right, looks for an open teammate during a matchup with Laker. (Middle) Michael Fernald brings the ball up court. (Below) Laker fans watch as Trent Patrick sends up his game-winning shot Jan. 27. (Photos by Tom Greene/Huron Daily Tribune.)