Dexter wins regional title on last second basket to complete 18-point comeback
Courtney Sacco | AnnArbor.com
NOVI -- When the ball left her hand, Riley McDonald didn’t know if it was going in. But if she's learned anything from this Dexter girls basktball playoff run, it's that anything's possible.
McDonald took a long 3 that banked in with three seconds left in overtime, sending her team to a 37-34 overtime victory over Farmington Hills Harrison in a regional title game Thursday night at Novi.
“Anything can happen,” McDonald said. “I think that’s been known for a while throughout this entire district journey we’ve been having. You’ve just got to shoot and hope for the best.”
The win gives Dexter (22-3) its first regional title since 1998 and its first at the Class A level. It advances to play Saginaw Heritage, 7 p.m. Tuesday at Davison in a state quarterfinal matchup. The winner advances to the state semifinals next Friday at the Breslin Center in East lansing.
After Harrison hit a shot to go up by a game-high 18 with 6:15 left in the third quarter, Dexter finished the game on a 25-4 run and didn’t give up another field goal.
Dexter spent the second half chipping away at Harrison's lead, culminating when point guard Makenzie Svirha hit a game-tying running jumper shot with 49 seconds left to tie the score, 34-34. She missed a free throw that would have put Dexter ahead, but the Dreadnaughts got a stop on the other end to head to the extra session.
“This had nothing to do with us coaching, it had all to do with our kids’ guts and our kids’ heart and not wanting our season to end,” Dexter coach Mike Bavineau said. “That’s all that second half was.”
The win came six days after the Dreadnaughts won a district title over Huron, a team it had lost to by double digits twice in the regular season. Thursday, they topped a Farmington Hills Harrison team that came in at 23-1 and was receiving votes in the Associated Press rankings.
“This team’s figured out a way to survive all year," Bavineau said. "I don’t know how they do it.”
Tuesday in the regional semifinal against Canton, Dexter didn’t give up its first field goal for the first 18 minutes of the game, as it started with an 11-2 lead and held off the Chiefs down the stretch.
Thursday was the opposite. Dexter fell behind big early, but held Harrison without a field goal for more than 13 minutes to end the game.
After falling behind by 12 at halftime, Dexter implemented a press defense in the second half that sped up the pace of the game and jumpstarted its comeback. For the game, Harrison turned the ball over 27 times, compared to 16 for Dexter.
“They just started to scratch and claw, get a turnover here, make a basket here," Bavineau said. "I’m sure the whole second half had to be completely helter skelter, just running all over the place, people throwing passes, but we felt like that was the only way we were going to get back in the game.”
The two teams were scoreless for the first three minutes, then played a run-and-gun stretch of 23 points over the final five minutes of the quarter.
But after scoring eight points on seven possessions during the stretch, the Dreadnaughts went cold, not scoring for more than eight minutes. The Hawks, meanwhile, rallied off 12 straight points to take a double-digit lead.
Harrison hit three 3-pointers in the first quarter and another in the second, making up half of their 24 first-half points.
“I felt like we were really tentative with the ball, we were afraid to put ourselves in dangerous positions,” Bavineau said. “Maybe that’s my fault because I kept saying ‘Watch where you put yourself.’ So I think maybe we were passive because of that.”
After a six-point Harrison run to start the second half, Dexter began its long run to win the game, putting up 13 points in the final six minutes of the third.
Following a spirited third-quarter break, Dexter took advantage of a defensive breakdown to score a layup to start the fourth. It cut the deficit to two with 2:33, where it remained for nearly two minutes before Svirha’s bucket.
Svirha led Dexter with 12 points, while McDonald had eight.
Following a scoreless first few minutes of overtime, Dexter took a timeout with 1:41 left and the ball. During the stoppage, McDonald took a pain reliever to help relieve ongoing foot pain.
“She was running on fumes,” Bavineau said.
After Harrison recorded a steal to have a chance at the last shot, Dexter freshman Taylor Olson stole it back with seven seconds left and passed to McDonald.
“We have five starting seniors, and this is our last time on Dexter High School basketball,” McDonald said. “We want to make the most of it, and we come out here and we just want to get the job done.”