East Lansing — The streak continues … barely.
Seth Polfus got behind Southfield Christian’s defense, caught the long pass from Dawson Bilski, then bobbled it near the baseline before tossing it toward the basket and watching it bounce around the cylinder before falling in as time expired for the difference in Powers North Central’s 84-83 double-overtime victory in a Class D state semifinal Thursday night at Breslin Center.
“I didn’t know how much time was on the clock,” Polfus said. “I knew I was going to be in that position because they were doubling him (Jason Whitens) and the ball was coming and it was like, ‘oh man, it’s actually coming to me.’ Then, I lost it and that added to it and I didn’t really know where I was. I saw the 6-foot-4 kid coming at me and I pumped fake like I always do when I’m scared, then I just launched it, thought it was an air ball, just really didn’t know what happened.”
Yes, it was Polfus who made the winner, a 5-foot-6 point guard who suffered an ACL injury his sophomore year, then watched his team’s run to the state championship his junior year before finally getting his chance to play.
“I think the one thing that summarizes these guys is that they’ve always been this way, they’re good at adapting,” North Central coach Adam Mercier said. “I think Josh (Southfield Christian coach Baker) made a good adjustment, went to the 1-2-2, face-guarded Jason (Whitens) with Caleb (Hunter) and Washington, and I thought Dawson (Bilski) made a great play pushing the ball up the floor, and when they went to the 1-2-2 what happened was their top guys got a little aggressive and Seth snuck in back side. If he would have caught it the first time he might have made a layup, not so dramatic.”
It was a classic matchup between a pair of Class D heavyweight champions.
In fact, it was a battle between the teams that won the last five Class D state titles, Southfield Christian from 2012-14 and Powers North Central entering the night with the title of two-time defending state champs.
No, North Central didn’t have to face Southfield Christian the previous two years while building its state record run, now at 82 consecutive victories since Southfield Christian moved up to Class C, where it lost to Flint Beecher in the regional final the previous two seasons.
Both teams had the chance to win in regulation with Southfield Christian sophomore guard Harlond Beverly splitting a pair of free throws to pull even at 69 with 6.2 seconds left in the fourth, then having Mr. Basketball finalist Whitens miss a 15-footer for North Central as time expired.
In the first overtime, Southfield Christian’s Elijah Hicks made the first of two free throws to give his team a 76-73 lead before Whitens went down court and knocked down a 3-pointer with 15 seconds left to force a second overtime.
Then, it was Brock Washington who made a 3-pointer to give Southfield Christian a 83-82 lead with 6.5 seconds left, only to watch North Central go the length of the floor with Bilski finding Polfus for the winning play.
“We wanted to help a lot on (Dawson) Bilski and (Jason) Whitens and they were able to throw over the top,” said Christian coach Josh Baker. “It’s a tough one.
“Obviously they’re a great team, 81 (wins) in a row. We had a couple of chances to kind of knock them out and they had a couple of chances to knock us out.”
Whitens, a 6-5 senior, had 31 points and 10 rebounds for North Central.
Buckley 68, Lansing Christian 61: Austin Harris had 28 points, 10 rebounds and six assists to lead Buckley (26-0) to a semifinal victory to set up a battle of unbeatens with Power North Central.
Buckley led 16-11 after one, 34-32 at halftime and 46-42 after three.
Nick Jamieson made things interesting with a 3-pointer from the left corner with three minutes left to pull LCC within 61-59, but it could get no closer.
Denver Cade had 13 points for Buckley and Joey Weber scored 10.
Preston Granger scored 15 for LCC (19-7) with Forrest Bouyer scoring 13 and Matt Havey, 10.