By MIKE ECKERT
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — There's no doubt Wednesday's game will be talked about for years to come in the Glen Lake community.
The Lakers won their first regional title since 1996 with an improbable 64-62 overtime win over Shelby in front of a packed crowd in the Class C finale at Traverse City West.
"It's sweet," Glen Lake coach Todd Hazelton said. "Shelby's a darn-good team. They probably play in a little stronger league than ours. We told our kids right before overtime, 'hey, this is what you wanted. You wanted Shelby because of football.' Man, did they have heart tonight. They stuck with it."
The Tigers had knocked the Lakers out of the football playoffs in the Division 6 district final.
Glen Lake (23-2) moves on to play Negaunee (23-1) on Tuesday in Gaylord for the Class C quarterfinal.
For much of Wednesday's game, it looked like Shelby would be moving on to meet the Miners. A Shane Kajtazi layup with 25 seconds left gave the Tigers a 55-48 lead and seemed to be the nail in the Lakers' coffin.
But Glen Lake persisted.
Carter Lee got a basket in transition to make it 55-50. Then after back-to-back Shelby turnovers, the Lakers came up with two huge plays — a 3-pointer from Paker Kokowicz and a put-back from Logan LaCross with a second left to tie the game and send it into overtime.
Glen Lake senior Mike O'Brien admitted that he was getting a little nervous about the outcome prior to the rally.
"I'd like to say I wasn't, but I was," O'Brien said. "But that's a testament to the guys we have. Myself and everyone around me, we don't give up. No matter how bleak it is, we're going to play to that buzzer sounds."
In overtime, the Tigers took the first lead off a Andrew Beckman free throw, but O'Brien answered immediately with a basket and Glen Lake never trailed again.
The story, though, was the sequence to end regulation. Prior to the last 10 seconds, O'Brien, Lee and Curtis Bunek accounted for all of Glen Lake's scoring. Kokowicz and LaCross, though, got to be the heroes.
"A lot of people think it's the Carter and Mike show on offense, but we've got weapons all over the place," O'Brien said. "Curtis hit some huge shots. Parker obviously, that was the biggest three in Glen Lake history that I can remember. And Logan on that tip-in, that's the reason we're in overtime."
Kokowicz's play came after Shelby threw the inbounds play away. He got the ball in the corner and hit it to cut the Shelby lead to two points.
"Coach called that play from the bench," Kokowicz said. "I knew I had to hit it or else we weren't going anywhere. Basically, it was all or nothing. The corner is where I like the three from, or it's where I'm the most consistent at least."
"These seniors trust each other," Hazelton said. "Even when Parker hadn't shot well all night, Mike turned, found him for that shot. And he buried it."
The Tigers then attempted to throw the ball all the way down the court. However, it went out of bounds at the other end and Glen Lake got the ball with nine seconds left.
Bunek drove and put up a shot from the free-throw line as time was winding down. It was off the mark, but LaCross was there to clean up the offensive rebound with a put-back and a tie that sent the packed crowd into a frenzy.
"It just kind of slowed down," LaCross said. "All I had to do was hit it off the glass, like we do in practice. It was easy."
"He's a gamer and he got tough when he needed to get tough," O'Brien said. "He made the play. He went to the right spot and did everything right. That's the kind of kid he is. He wants to do the right thing and help the team. He's not concerned about personal stats, and it showed tonight."
O'Brien finished with a game-high 26 points, nine rebounds and seven blocks. Lee had 24 points, seven rebounds and two steals while Bunek had nine points — including five in the fourth quarter and two in overtime — to go with three rebounds and three steals.
The big baskets for Kokowicz and LaCross were their only points of the night, but they contributed in other ways. Kokowicz had eight assists and two steals while LaCross had eight rebounds, three blocks and two steals.
"At halftime, I knew Mike had the majority of the scoring, but I wasn't going to say anything," Lee said. "I knew my guys were going to step up. Parker had a huge three, Logan had the put-back. It's incredible."
Beckman finished with 16 points for Shelby, Spencer Peters had 15 points and Jason Beckman had 12 points.
"They had a bunch of good shooters, and they play that tough, physical downstate style of basketball that I only see in AAU," O'Brien said. "It brought me back to those AAU days. That's the kind of games I love too. They took it to us, but we punched back at the end."
Glen Lake gets a week to prepare for Negaunee, as well as savor the regional title.
"When I got this job six years ago, it was a total dream job," said Hazelton, who also played for Glen Lake when he was in high school. "I love the community and I love the school. It's big for the community, and the Glen Lake basketball program. We had hundreds of little kids watching tonight. They want to be in these situations. These kids will remember this for the rest of their lives."