BY DENNIS CHASE
— This is why March Madness is so compelling:
- Leland, down 14 midway through the fourth quarter, rallies to force Traverse City Christian into overtime in the Class D district at Suttons Bay. The Comets have shots to win it in regulation and in overtime, but fall 65-64.
- Frankfort, down 15 early in the third quarter, battles back to beat Baldwin 69-65 in overtime in the Class D regional at Traverse City Central.
- Glen Lake, down seven in the closing seconds to Shelby in the Class C regional final at Traverse City West, finds a way to tie it and then carries that momentum into overtime for a 64-62 win.
Three dramatic boys basketball finishes, all in a one-week time period. It’s why these three weeks in March are still the most entertaining in prep sports.
Wednesday night’s classic at West might have been the best. It had all the ingredients: A lively, enthusiastic crowd; two solid teams; and an intense finish.
The turning point came in the final seconds of regulation when Shelby, up 55-50 at this point, turned the ball over twice on inbounds passes and Glen Lake capitalized with two scores to tie it. The last Tiger turnover came on somewhat of a gamble with 9.8 seconds left and the score 55-53.
With everyone expecting a short inbounds pass and quick Glen Lake foul, the Tigers pulled a surprise. A Shelby player broke from the pack and the Tigers tried to hit him with a full-court pass in hopes it would lead to an easy layup and victory. Instead, the player couldn’t gain control of the ball until he crossed the out-of-bounds line. Possession, Glen Lake.
The Lakers tied it with one second left and then, of course, won it in overtime.
Jubilation on one bench, disbelief on the other.
All stemming from the fact that Shelby seemingly had the game in hand. For the Tigers, it was one of those “what just happened?’ moments, much like one Glen Lake experienced at Frankfort in late January. In that game, the Lakers led by 11 at the start of the fourth quarter and were still up five with under a minute to play. Then, with under 10 seconds left, the Lakers committed a turnover — off an inbounds pass — Frankfort scored and won by a point.
That was the last time the Lakers lost a game.
Wednesday was quite a night for two Northwest Conference quarterbacks — Glen Lake’s Carter Lee and Frankfort’s Dave Loney. Lee, who has really stepped up his game since Christmas break, scored 24 points for the Lakers. He hit four 3-pointers and helped take the scoring load off Mike O’Brien’s shoulders. O’Brien finished with 26.
Loney was the MVP of the regional at Central. He took control in the paint, scoring 52 points in the Panthers two wins.
Both showed resolve and leadership, key attributes to playing quarterback.
But football is months away. There’s still much decide on the basketball court. Now, let’s see if the next week can come close to matching the thrills of this last one.