LANSING – Frustration and setbacks turned into execution and triumph for Lansing Christian on Wednesday night in a Class D regional final.
The Pilgrims, who had seen their postseason come to an end the previous two years in regional finals, pushed past Plymouth Christian 68-58.
Senior Matt Havey had 32 points to lead Lansing Christian (18-6), which advanced to the state quarterfinals next Tuesday to play Dream Academy of Benton Harbor at Kalamazoo Loy Norrix High School.
“I don’t have any words. It’s awesome. We’ve been talking about this since we were in elementary school,” said Havey, gesturing with his hand at the estimated height of the Lansing Christian senior class when they were younger. “I thought we did a really good job staying composed. We kept it together. We were confident we were going to get it done and we did.”
“Since second grade we’ve been shooting for something like this,” senior post player Preston Granger said. “Years and years of dreaming and practicing for this moment right here. It’s definitely special.”
Havey and Granger combined for 23 of Lansing Christian’s 30 first-half points. Havey’s third 3-pointer of the night put the Pilgrims up 20-9 with six minutes to go in the first half, but Plymouth Christian responded with a 12-2 run after a timeout to cut the Pilgrims’ lead to one.
The game got much tighter from there, as Plymouth Christian continued to rally in the second half whenever Lansing Christian looked to rebuild its lead. The Pilgrims led 47-42 following the third quarter before Plymouth surged in front by a point.
That would be the only time Plymouth Christian would be in front. After the Pilgrims retook the lead at 55-54, Havey scored a reverse lay-in while being fouled and completed the three-point play at the free-throw line. He then found senior Nick Jamieson in transition to put the Pilgrims up by six points at 60-54.
Plymouth Christian cut the lead to four, but the Pilgrims ended the game on an 8-2 run as Havey knocked down more free throws and the Eagles went cold from the floor.
“They took that lead midway through the fourth and (my team) said hey, we need to decide what we’re going to be made of,” Lansing Christian coach Chris Mustaine said. “We really pulled together and played as a team down the stretch and that’s really exciting to be able to watch.
“When you play good teams, you’re always going to have times in games where you’re not running away with anything and the other team is going to push back.”
Mustaine did not take a timeout as the Eagles went in front, opting to trust his seniors – four who were in their fourth MHSAA state tournament.
“I like letting kids play it out,” Mustaine said. “It was a touch-and-go call. With seniors out there we just needed to get a basket and regroup and it worked out.”
Havey had just six points in a semifinal win over Morenci on Monday, but came up huge in Wednesday’s second half with 19 in the final 16 minutes.
“He played out of his mind,” Granger said of Havey.
“It’s nice when he’s able to get it started offensively,” Mustaine added. “The past two games he’s been great on the defensive end but what we needed (against Plymouth Christian) was him to score baskets. He’s a great shooter, but a couple times late in the fourth he went to the basket hard, up and around the corner and got to the rim and that’s just veteran leadership.”
Granger had 17 points for Lansing Christian. Senior Kyle Lebeda had eight blocks to go along with his four points for the Pilgrims.
Junior Matthew Malcolm had 19 points to lead the Eagles while junior Maximus Okolo added 18 points.