East Lansing — Malik Ellison made a 25-footer with a defender in his face as time expired to kick-start a wild celebration as defending Class C state champion Flint Beecher held off Detroit Loyola, 60-59, in the semifinal Thursday at Breslin Center.
Beecher (24-2) plays for its fourth state title in five years against Grandville Calvin Christian on Saturday.
“That is a play that we run all the time for situations like that and the kids executed it and Malik knocked it down,” Beecher coach Mike Williams said.
The shot, however, was well-defensed.
“(Loyola’s Pierre Mitchell) had two hands in my face so I like leaned to the side and floated it up,” Ellison said. “At first when I pump faked, I was like should I pass it, then I saw him jump and had a little angle with my arm and I let it go and I knew it was in.”
Loyola’s defense played well against Ellison, limiting the junior guard to eight points (2-for-11, 2-for-6 3-pointers).
But, Loyola (21-6) put itself in a hole early, missing its first 13 3-pointers before getting hot when it mattered.
Ernest Adams made two 3-pointers in the final minutes of the third quarter, then Adams and Keith Johnson made consecutive 3-pointers to pull Loyola within 51-48 with four minutes left.
Johnson connected on another 3-pointer to give Loyola its first lead at 57-54 with 1:40 left, but Loyola missed its final four free throws, all coming in the final minute after Mitchell had made both ends of a 1-and-1 for a 59-55 lead with 47 seconds left.
Aquavius Burks, a 6-foot-4 senior, scored 22 for Beecher, senior guard Jamari Thomas-Newell had 12, and Levane Blake finished with nine points, 11 rebounds.
While Beecher is used to playing at Breslin, it was Loyola’s first trip to the Final Four after winning its first regional title in history this month.
“We were excited with the opportunity and we wanted to have fun and play for each other,” Loyola coach Rocky Buscemi said. “You know, win or lose we told these guys in the locker room, we cried our eyes out together, the most disappointing thing is we don’t get to practice tomorrow.
“Clearly we all would have liked to see some free throws go in or the kid miss the shot, but at the end of the day one team wins and one team loses. I felt we came out and did what we wanted to do defensively, but our shots weren’t falling.”
Loyola used its zone and full-court pressure to force 18 turnovers.
“Part of it was Loyola and part of it was us being careless,” Williams said of the turnovers. “Loyola didn’t do a lot of trapping out of their zone. What they did was kept constant pressure on it.”
Adams, a 6-2 senior forward, had 15 points and 10 rebounds for Loyola, senior guard Romari Ennis scored 12, Johnson 10 and Mitchell nine.
Grandville Calvin Christian 65, McBain 42: Senior guard Tony DeWitte scored 31, 26 in the first half (10-for-11) to lead Calvin Christian (21-4).
“I came out shooting with confidence, the ball was going in and my teammates found me,” DeWitte said of the first half. “The rim feels like it’s two times bigger when it’s like that. It keeps going in and it feels great.”
Said Calvin Christian coach Ryan Stevens: “We have a lot of kids who can do that and we find each other when we are hot.
“The thing about Tony is he can score in so many different ways.”
Senior point guard Braden Stevens had 10 points and seven assists.
Logan Eling scored 18 for McBain (26-1).