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.”
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.
We've got a long way to go before the stories of this season conclude with four MHSAA boys basketball champions crowned March 15 at Michigan State University's Breslin Center.
But the first week of the 2023-24 regular season gave us plenty to fill our first installment of “Breslin Bound” – our official tip-off to following more than 700 boys basketball teams through those final buzzers in East Lansing.
Week in Review
The countdown of last week’s five most intriguing results:
1. Flint Carman-Ainsworth 46, Flint Beecher 44 This was their first meeting since January 2022 and it provided a memorable start as the Cavaliers downed the reigning Division 3 champion.
2. Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice 75, Ferndale 66 These two both have several new contributors, but big things will be expected again as well as Brother Rice regularly contends in Division 1 and Ferndale is the reigning Division 2 champion.
3. Lansing Waverly 58, Detroit Martin Luther King 57 Waverly took major strides last season doubling its win total from 2021-22 and could be on the verge of more coming off this impressive victory at the Detroit Douglass Tip-Off Classic.
4. Norway 49, Munising 48 After the Knights gave Munising a tough final regular-season test last season, the Mustangs went on to claim the Division 4 championship. Norway will attempt to build off back-to-back 15-7 seasons starting with this win.
5. Wyoming Tri-unity Christian 64, Grandville Calvin Christian 44 These two combined to finish 46-9 a season ago, when Calvin defeated Tri-unity 63-42 in the regular-season finale (although the Defenders rebounded to finish Division 4 runners-up).
With an eye toward March, here are two teams in each division making sparks:
Rochester Adams (2-0) The Highlanders provided one of the best late-breaking stories of last season, reaching the Division 1 Quarterfinals after finishing fourth of five teams in a strong Oakland Activities Association Red that also featured North Farmington and Ferndale. The momentum started rolling again with wins last week over Milford 52-48 and Macomb L’Anse Creuse North 74-59.
Utica (2-0) Last season’s co-champion in the Macomb Area Conference Blue defeated MAC White reigning champion Port Huron Northern 68-49 in their opener and then Utica Eisenhower 56-41 at the MAC Champions of Champions event at Center Line. Utica improved to 15-7 last season after finishing 7-14 in 2021-22.
Dundee (2-0) After holding its own last season in a strong Lenawee County Athletic Association and finishing 13-12 overall, Dundee is hoping to turn a fast start last week into a climb up the standings with league play starting Friday. The Vikings doubled up East Jackson 52-26 and downed Milan 67-37 to start things off.
Goodrich (1-0) A 22-5 finish last season included a shared championship in the Flint Metro League Stars and a run to the Division 2 Quarterfinals, where the Martians fell by only five to eventual champion Ferndale. The second-to-last of those five losses came to Flint Beecher, 70-55, but Goodrich avenged it Friday with a 58-55 win over the Bucs.
Hillsdale (2-0) The Hornets finished just 4-19 last season, their second sub-.500 in a row. But the turnaround may be starting. Hillsdale is halfway toward last year’s win total after defeating Union City 53-45 and Jonesville 50-40 – and after losing to Union City 52-36 and Jonesville 39-23 last season, with Jonesville going on to finish 19-6.
Royal Oak Shrine Catholic (2-0) This is another team well on its way to bettering last season’s success by Jan. 1. After going 3-19 last winter, Shrine defeated Bloomfield Hills Roeper 48-30 and Utica Ford 55-52 in overtime last week. Ford had defeated the Knights 63-50 last season, and the 55 points Shrine scored this time would have been their second-highest total of 2022-23.
Adrian Lenawee Christian (2-0) Lenawee Christian finished last season on an 11-5 run after a 2-7 start, and might be rolling that right into this season as well after opening with a 74-60 win over Blissfield and 73-58 overtime victory over Hanover-Horton. Blissfield was among teams to deal the Cougars a loss during last season’s tough early stretch. Lenawee Christian is playing in the Tri-County Conference this winter after playing previously as an independent.
Wakefield-Marenisco (2-0) The Cardinals were a solid 13-10 last season, with the final week including a third win over Bessemer as they faced off in a District Semifinal, followed by a third loss to Ironwood in the District championship game. This season’s first week saw the same schedule, but a better outcome – Wakefield-Marenisco edged Bessemer 60-57 and this time defeated Ironwood 48-30. Ironwood was first and W-M third last season in the Copper Mountain Conference Porcupine Mountain.
Be on the lookout for results of these games coming up:
Tuesday – River Rouge (1-0) at Ferndale (1-1) – As noted above, Ferndale was last season’s Division 2 champion, and defeated Rouge 72-60 in last winter’s meeting.
Friday – Kalamazoo Central (0-0) at Battle Creek Central (0-0) – These longtime rivals finished first and third, respectively, in the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference East last season.
Saturday – Detroit Cass Tech (0-0) at Holt (1-0) – The Rams host the reigning Division 1 champion Technicians in the 4:30 p.m. game of the Moneyball Classic.
Saturday – Grand Rapids South Christian (0-0) vs. Rockford (1-0) at Calvin University – This will be the 10 a.m. opener of The Invite at Calvin University, with the reigning Division 2 runner-up Sailors taking on a Rockford team coming off an 18-win season.
Saturday – Grand Rapids Catholic Central (0-0) vs. Grand Rapids Northview (1-0) at Calvin University – This will cap off The Invite tipping approximately 7:35 p.m. and pitting last season’s Ottawa-Kent Conference Gold co-champion and White outright champion, respectively.
MHSAA.com's weekly “Breslin Bound” previews and reviews are powered by MI Student Aid, a part of the Office of Postsecondary Financial Planning located within the Michigan Department of Treasury. MI Student Aid encourages students to pursue postsecondary education by providing access to student financial resources and information. MI Student Aid administers the state’s 529 college savings programs (MET/MESP), as well as scholarship and grant programs that help make college Accessible, Affordable and Attainable for you. Connect with MI Student Aid at www.michigan.gov/mistudentaid and find more information on Facebook and Twitter @mistudentaid.
PHOTOS (Top) A Westland John Glenn player gets to the basket during U-D Jesuit's season-opening 83-48 win over the Rockets. (Middle) Bath defenders surround a Charyl Stockwell player during the Sentinels' 63-55 victory. (Top photo by Olivia B. Photography; middle photo by Click. by Christine McCallister.)