Detroit Southeastern had a three-point lead with under a minute to play Friday, but then host Cass Tech converted consecutive steals into baskets for a 43-42 lead with 8 seconds left in their PSL semifinal.
“Aw, man,” Southeastern’s Leonard Harper-Baker thought: “They got us again.”
Southeastern brought the ball down the floor and into the lane when Cass caused a jump ball with 3 seconds remaining — and that’s when things got crazy.
The official scorer said the ball belonged to Southeastern on the alternate possession, but Cass coach David Dixon was insisting the ball belonged to Cass.
“It’s not a thought. It was our ball — they got the last jump ball,” Dixon said. “It’s our ball; there’s no question about it.”
Instead, Harper-Baker took the ball out of bounds and passed to Eahn Blackwell in the corner. Blackwell’s basket with 56 seconds left had given the Jungaleers a three-point lead.
Blackwell didn’t hesitate and fired up a shot, which missed.
“I usually make that — I think I live for those shots,” he said. “I already made a couple. I just went to the floor. I knew I didn’t make it. I thought the game was over.”
Harper-Baker was confident Blackwell was going to make the shot, but just in case … “I thought: ‘Dang, I got to get a spot.’ “
The 6-foot-5 senior got inside position, and when he saw it hit the rim he jumped.
“I saw it coming off,” he said. “I knew I had to try something so I just tipped it back up. It felt good when it came off. It looked good when it went in, too.”
It did look good going in — after it bounced on the rim twice — giving Southeastern a wild, 44-43 victory.
The win sends the Jungaleers into next Friday’s Public School League championship game against defending champ Pershing, which lost its regular season game to Southeastern.
* More: Pershing tops Douglass 82-68
A year ago in the semifinals, Southeastern lost to host Cass on a last-second tip-in.
“I think it’s kind of poetic justice,” said Southeastern coach George Ward. “You could almost make a movie from these last two semifinal games here.”
This was a tremendous defensive battle where every possession mattered. Southeastern’s D’Cari Charleston (13 points) and Cass’ Kenny Carpenter (12 points) were the only players to score in double figures.
Southeastern trailed most of the game but hung close until the end.
After the game, Dixon wondered why the officials ignored him and did not check with the scoring table again when he was certain the ball belonged to Cass with 3 seconds left.
“I don’t know why they didn’t come over,” he said. “I mean, they’re very good referees. I was so frustrated about the lack of coming to check at the table just to make sure at that juncture of the game.”
For Ward, he wondered why the semifinals were played at Cass again.
“I don’t care what anybody says, this is a great venue, don’t get me wrong, but this game could have been at Renaissance,” he said. “They practice here every day.”
Contact Mick McCabe: 313-223-4744 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @mickmccabe1.