Traverse City Record-Eagle

March 7, 2013

Sabres win overtime thriller in district semifinals

BY DENNIS CHASE
dchase@record-eagle.com

---- — SUTTONS BAY — Paul Bump was having a bumpy night at the free throw line.

But the senior guard hit the one that counted with 11.9 seconds left in overtime Wednesday night to give Traverse City Christian a dramatic 65-64 win over Leland in the nightcap of the Class D basketball district here.

The Sabres (16-5) will face Suttons Bay (9-12) for the championship Friday night. The Norsemen cranked up the defensive pressure in the third quarter to pull away to a 47-24 win over Northport in the opener.

The nightcap looked like it might be a double-digit outcome, too, as Christian held a 14-point lead about midway through the fourth quarter. A spirited Comets comeback, though, forced overtime.

In the overtime, Leland tied the game at 64-all with 22 seconds left on a Ian Duvall basket. But Bump drew a foul 11 seconds later. He missed the first of his two free throws, then hit the second. Leland penetrated the lane for a final shot, but it came up short.

For Bump, who was 4-of-9 at the foul line, it was all about concentration.

"I kept thinking, 'Just make it,'" he said of his second attempt. "I shot 47 percent during the season. In practice I can knock them down. I just have to concentrate, bend my knees and follow through. That's all I was concentrating on, bending my knees, because that first one (attempt) was flat."

Leland had taken a 60-59 lead with 17 seconds left in regulation — the Comets' first advantage since the first quarter — on a 3-pointer by Dylan Jolliffe. The Sabres worked the ball inside to 6-7 center Kris Crosby and he drew a foul with 7.5 seconds remaining. Crosby, who was 8-of-15 at the line, missed his first free throw but sank the second to tie it. Leland misfired on an open look from the corner that could have won it at the buzzer.

Earlier this season on the same floor, Leland wiped out a 19-point fourth quarter deficit to stun Suttons Bay. The Comets nearly did it again, this time to Christian.

"I told the kids afterwards, 'You know what, we played great for awhile, then we gave it back to them because we didn't do what we did to get there.' That was turning the ball over, but we got it (game) back," an elated Christian coach Greg Farmer said.

"This is the biggest win we've had since I've been here. Just to get to the finals, after a game like this, is big for our kids."

It was a tough loss for the Comets, whose full-court pressure defense and deft perimeter shooting got them back in the game after trailing 53-39 in the fourth.

The comeback was fueled by the senior nucleus of Duvall, Jolliffe, Matt Fleis and A.J. Whittaker.

"You look at those guys in timeouts and it doesn't matter where we are, time or score — they know they can get it done," Comets coach Jon Kiessel said. "Those seniors put this team on their backs and carried us.

"I'm sad for my seniors. We're not ready for it to be over. It's a tough loss."

Fleis, who led the Comets with 17 points, fouled out near the end of regulation. Whittaker joined him on the bench late in overtime.

Crosby, meanwhile, had a huge night for the Sabres. He finished with 27 points. Crosby had 16 in the first half, hitting three 3-pointers, as the Sabres opened a 33-23 lead.

"We came out really aggressive," he said. "We really wanted this for our seniors. This is exciting."

Crosby also did a solid job defensively, limiting Whittaker to 10 points.

Ben Larkins and A.J. Weber added nine points apiece for Christian, while Bump and Jesse Heerdt contributed eight.

"I thought Christian played a phenomenal game," Kiessel said. "They had kids make shots, make plays, all over the court. Of course, Kris Crosby had a fantastic game. It was like it was their night.

"But my guys — and I was most proud of this — they didn't care if it seemed like it was Christian's night. They still went out and got it to overtime. We had a shot to win twice (in regulation and overtime)."

Jolliffe finished strong, scoring 14 points for Leland. Duvall added nine.

In the opener, Suttons Bay played inspired ball in the third quarter to knock out Northport. The Norsemen led 17-14 at half, but then went to full-court pressure and rattled the Wildcats with a 24-5 third quarter.

"I don't believe we were ready to play in the first half," Suttons Bay coach Ron Anderson said. "We weren't as focused as we should have been.

"We went to full-court pressure (in the third quarter) and our guys took it upon themselves to get after it."

Especially junior Aaron Orban, a catalyst in the press. He scored all 10 of his points in that quarter.

"Our coaches really got after us at halftime," Orban said. "They told us we had to pick it up. They brought up a game two years ago that Suttons Bay lost — a game it should have won. That motivated us. We came out fired up."

Logan Mikesell and Cam Tarlton finished with eights points for the Norsemen, while Casey Cross provided a lift off the bench with seven.

Bill Stowe scored 18 of Northport's 24. He had 11 at the break.

"When he's on, they're (Wildcats) are on," Anderson said. "When he's not, they don't have a lot of other options. We knew that going in. We tried to exploit that in the second half."

Suttons Bay has won six of its last seven games.

"Right now we're playing as well as we've played all year," Anderson said. "Playing the Northwest Conference, against a lot of bigger schools, has helped us prepare for the post-season."