Big Reds Come Up Big Time in 4th Quarter

March 21, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – One quarter – 8 minutes – remained in Friday’s last Class B Semifinal at the Breslin Center. Time appeared to be running out for Milan as it trailed Detroit Douglass by eight points.

And this was the scenario – almost – that the Big Reds wanted. 

Sure, they would’ve liked to be trailing by less. And they probably didn’t want the ball in a freshman’s hands for the program’s most pressure-packed free throw of the last half century. 

But aside from that …

“We were down eight and we had eight minutes to win this game,” senior guard Donovan Verges said. “We’re yelling at each other, ‘We’ve gotta come back,’ that we’re not losing today. We want to play in that championship game. So we went out there and fought as hard as we could.”

And they eventually edged Douglass, 51-50, in the most exciting Semifinal of this weekend.

Verges nailed a 3-pointer with 3:38 to play to tie the score for the first time since the start of the third quarter. It remained tied 50-50 with 22 seconds to play as the ball passed through four sets of hands near midcourt before falling into those of Milan freshman Garrett Gardette – who was fouled and made the go-ahead free throw with five seconds to play.

He missed the second free-throw attempt. But Douglass’ outlet pass off the rebound landed comfortably back in Verges’ hands with everyone else on the court then too stunned to do anything more before time expired.

Just like that, Milan (24-3) will be facing Benton Harbor on Saturday with a chance to win its first MHSAA title since claiming Class C in 1948.

“All year we said we wanted to make history here at Milan,” Big Reds senior Latin Davis said. “We wanted to leave a legacy. So that’s what we’re trying to do.”

The 5-foot-9 guard scored 17 points (on 6 of 10 shooting from the floor) with six assists, and 6-7 junior Nick Perkins added 16 points and nine rebounds.

Davis had only three points during the fourth-quarter comeback, but also had two assists. And he played the starring role as Milan’s defense allowed only 12 points in the third quarter and eight during the final period.

“Latin Davis has been underrated for three years. He’s a winner,” Milan coach Josh Tropea said “He’s 64-8 in the last three years, and he’s won more trophies than I care to count. And there’s no question we’re playing (Saturday) because of his leadership and his ability at point guard.”

Douglass coach Nkwane Young said after that his team had had difficulties all season against zone defenses. Milan switched to a stifling 1-2-2 zone for the fourth quarter after using a 2-3 earlier and watching as the Hurricanes found openings when the Big Reds tried switching to man-to-man.

Douglass senior guard Darrell Davis, a Mr. Basketball candidate, ended up spending most of the game stuck on the perimeter and got off only 11 shots in scoring just nine points, 16 below his average.

Senior point guard Terrell Hales did add 11 points, seven rebounds and five steals, with senior forward Deshawn Sanders leading with 15 points and senior forward Daavi Bradley coming off the bench to also score 11 for the Hurricanes (17-10).

Even then, Douglass’ final undoing fell partially on missing 5 of 9 free-throw attempts during the fourth quarter and making only 10 of 21 for the game.

“I thought the third quarter, we had control of it. And in the fourth quarter, I thought we were still in control,” Young said. “Like I told my team, one play doesn’t (lose) the game. There are some things we could’ve done differently, made some free throws. But otherwise, I’m proud of my team.”

The Semifinal run was the first for Douglass, which previously had reached a Quarterfinal in 2010. Davis was part of teams that finished 68-31 and won four District titles over his four seasons despite playing as a Class B in the Class A-heavy Detroit Public School League. Young called his standout the face of his program, and Davis will go on to play next season at the University of Dayton.

“The first year we took it to the Regional (Semifinal), and I wanted to take it farther than that, to the state championship,” Davis said. “My legacy is a good legacy at Fred D. I hope somebody comes in to replace it. I’ve just got to work harder in college, a stepping stone toward life.

“A lot of people doubted us, didn’t think we’d be making it this far. We came up a little short, but it’s OK. We just wanted to win, that’s all.”

Click for a full box score and video from the press conference.

PHOTOS: Milan freshman Garrett Gardette tries to get past Douglass’ Daavi Bradley during Friday’s Class B Semifinal. (Middle) The Hurricanes’ Darrell Davis works to get to the basket. 

HIGHLIGHTS: (1) Detroit Douglass ended the first half on an 11-4 run, including this bucket by Darrell Davis on a break with 3 seconds to go. (2) Nick Perkins had a pair of baskets for Milan in the closing moments of its 51-50 Class B Semifinal win. This putback gave the Big Reds the 50-49 lead at the time.

Beecher Earns Opportunity to 'Complete the Task' with Semifinal Win

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

March 23, 2023

EAST LANSING — Flint Beecher and Ecorse entered their Division 3 Semifinal on Thursday with at least one common thread of motivation. 

Both lost in last year’s Semifinals, so both the Buccaneers and Raiders were looking to leave Breslin Center with some vindication. 

Ultimately, Beecher was the team that did so, earning a 64-54 win over Ecorse and advancing to its seventh championship game since 2012.

Senior guard Robert Lee and senior forward Kevin Tiggs both scored 17 points to lead the way for Beecher (23-4). 

“We’re not satisfied with this,” Beecher head coach Marquise Gray said. “This is just one part of completing the task.” 

The difference in the game turned out to be that Beecher simply had more depth, which eventually wore down Ecorse. 

Beecher featured an eight-player rotation, while Ecorse, with the exception of one substitution late in the third quarter, played its starters throughout until the game got away late. 

“We figured we would wear them down,” Gray said. “Looking at their bench, we saw that they didn’t have a deep bench. But the focus, energy and effort was on us, and us executing defensively and offensively.”

The Bucs’ Kevin Tiggs Jr. (1) pulls in a rebound while Ecorse’s Deontae Jude (11) also grabs for the ball.A big reason why Ecorse was short-handed was because one of its best players, senior Kenneth Morrast, was out after suffering a broken wrist in a Regional Final. 

Ecorse head coach Gerrod Abram said he believes his team would have won this weekend’s championship if his squad was at full strength, but also heaped praise on Beecher and its playmakers. 

Abram said before Morrast’s injury, his squad didn’t play any zone all year. But after he was injured, Abram said his team had to adjust on the fly and start playing a zone defense that he didn’t want to employ, but had to in order to keep players out of foul trouble. 

Senior Malik Olafioye scored 22 points, and sophomore point guard Darrien Reddick scored 14 to lead Ecorse (20-5). 

“Extremely proud of the effort we put out,” Abram said. “We knew it was going to be a big task with the way they play. We gave everything that we had. We just ran out of gas at the end.”

Beecher took a 40-34 lead into the fourth quarter, but Ecorse scored the first five points of the fourth to cut Beecher’s lead to one with 6:10 remaining in the game. 

The Buccaneers answered, going on a 9-0 run to grab a 49-39 lead with 4:30 left. 

Ecorse closed to within seven at 51-44 with 3:37 remaining following a 3-pointer by Reddick, but Beecher responded with four straight points to take a 55-44 lead with 2:42 remaining. 

Beecher ultimately punctuated the win on a flying dunk by Lee with 1:09 remaining. Lee was also fouled on the dunk, and he made the free throw for a three-point play to give Beecher a 60-48 lead. 

“What I really focused on was just trying to get my teammates involved,” Lee said. “Not try to force shots. Just let the game come to me.” 

Now, Beecher will turn its focus to reclaiming its status as the best in the state.

“That’s something we have talked about, remembering the feeling that we had last year when we didn’t complete the job,” Gray said. “Guys have been taking it to heart. It’s not a rite. You have to earn your way here. It’s not a given.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Flint Beecher’s Robert Lee Jr. (22) sends a pass into the post during Thursday’s Semifinal win over Ecorse. (Middle) The Bucs’ Kevin Tiggs Jr. (1) pulls in a rebound while Ecorse’s Deontae Jude (11) also grabs for the ball.