Ypsilanti bounced from boys basketball state tournament by Temperance Bedford, 64-53
What was supposed to be a dream season for the Ypsilanti High School boys basketball team turned into a nightmare Friday night at Milan High School.
Four missed free throws in the final minute of regulation led to the No. 8-ranked Phoenix dropping a 64-53 overtime decision to Temperance Bedford in a Class A district final.
“It’s real frustrating because we work on free throws every day after practice. So guys just got up there and mentally just missed them and that was it,” said Ypsilanti’s Tristan Simmons, who finished with nine points.
After his team missed the four previous free throws, Simmons split a pair with 13 seconds remaining to give Ypsilanti a 49-47 lead. It was Simmons' only point of the second half.
Bedford grabbed the rebound after Simmons’ next shot, sprinted up the floor and found senior Kenneth McFadden trailing the play.
McFadden drove to the basket and was fouled as he got the shot off. The ball circled around the rim as fans inside the gymnasium held their collective breath before the shot fell off the outside lip of the cylinder.
With 4.6 seconds on the clock, McFadden calmly sank both free throws to tie the game at 49-49.
Ypsilanti would get one more shot off, but Darryl Tipton's jumper bounced off the rim, sending the game into overtime.
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Neither team took control in the first two-and-a-half minutes of extra time, until Simmons and center Mamadou Ba both fouled out. Ba finished with a team-high 10 points and 15 rebounds.
Not only did the Phoenix lose their two top scorers, but also its best defensive weapon against Bedford's Jackson Lamb.
Simmons picked up his fifth foul during a three-point play by Jeremiah Harris that gave the Kicking Mules a 55-51 lead. It was the beginning of Bedford's 12-2 run to end the game.
“They just dug in and wanted it more to be honest with you,” Ypsilanti coach Steve Brooks said. “They got every ball that was on the floor and we pride ourselves on getting those balls.”
To even be in overtime came as a shock to the Phoenix. Halfway through the third quarter, Ypsilanti was coming off a 10-2 run and held a 35-23 lead. Defensively, they had only allowed seven points in the previous 12 minutes.
However, in the final two minutes of the quarter, Bedford went on a 9-0 run and cut the lead to 42-41 entering the final frame.
“We never stopped falling into the bad habits. We got the lead from getting the ball in the paint. Then we took four jumpers and the lead was down to three,” Brooks said. “We lost our rhythm of getting the ball inside.”
Bedford recognized how Ypsilanti was attacking and adjusted, but Ypsilanti never found a way to get its offensive flowing again.
“They sagged off the bigs because they thought they couldn’t shoot,” Simmons said.
Only five players scored for the Mules, but four of them reached double-figures. Lamb had a game-high 20 points while McFadden added 16 while also pulling down nine rebounds. The 5-8 McFadden was one of the smallest guys on the court, but played much bigger than his stature.
“Really, in sports, it’s not about height, it’s about heart,” said Brooks. “Sometimes we take for granted if the guy is smaller you don’t have to box him out. When you get the determination like that, if you don’t match that intensity of the guy you’re playing against, it doesn’t matter their size.”
Starting point guard Derrick Richardson wasn’t expected to play for Ypsilanti because of a right ankle injury he aggravated against Saline on Wednesday. But just minutes before tipoff, he was cleared to play and started.
“That’s D.J., a great kid, a tough kid," Brooks said. "You couldn’t get him to sit this one out.”
Although he was on the floor, it was clear Richardson was missing a step while scoring eight points.
As one of the top 10 teams in the state, Brooks was disappointed the season ended early, but wouldn’t look back on the year in displeasure.
“Everybody is going to lose their last game except the one team that wins it all," he said. "Did we want to win the district? Yeah. Did we want to go further? Yeah, but we're not going to take anything away from these guys.”