EATON RAPIDS – They say a team adopts the personality of its coach.
The Williamston Hornets boys basketball team is case in point.
Less than a week after finding out their head coach, Jason Bauer, underwent successful brain surgery, the Hornets battled back to upset reigning Class B state champs Wyoming Godwin Heights, 57-55, in overtime of Monday’s regional semifinal contest at Eaton Rapids High School.
“‘Win your battle’ has been our theme ever since coach had his surgery,” said Williamston assistant coach Tom Lewis, who has filled in for Bauer. “He’s winning his battle, he’s home, and he’s doing an amazing job.
“We’re just trying to give it back to him.”
The Hornets (19-3) downed the state’s second-ranked team, and advance to play Stockbridge Wednesday for the regional title, on the back of senior guard Riley Lewis.
Riley Lewis, who scored a game-high 37 points, gave Williamston its first lead of the night with just minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. With his team trailing 46-44, the Hope College commit got a layup, plus the harm, to give the Hornets a 47-46 lead. The Wolverines quickly snatched the lead back, but a bucket by freshman Sean Cobb tied the game at 49-all.
Neither team scored again in regulation.
“We knew (that was) our big chance,” said Cobb, who scored 16 points and hauled in 11 rebounds. “They were tired and we were feeling the energy, especially with the crowd getting us hyped up.”
Godwin Heights scored first in extra time, taking a 51-49 lead, but two free throws by Lewis quickly tied the game up. The Wolverines struggled all night from the free throw line, which caused Tom Lewis to foul despite the game being tight the entire overtime period.
Godwin Heights held a 53-51 lead over the Hornets when Lewis connected on one of two free throws. Williamston immediately fouled, and it led to the Wolverines coming up empty at the charity stripe. Riley Lewis hit a layup with 25 seconds left to give his team a 54-53 advantage, but Godwin Heights was able to connect on two free throws on its next possession.
However, the Wolverines fouled Riley Lewis on the inbound pass and it led to him knocking down yet another free throw. The senior closed the game with two more free throws before Godwin Heights’ half-court heave at the buzzer fell short.
“Those final minutes everyone was on their feet, and it was really my first taste of a (big) tournament atmosphere. That was amazing,” Riley Lewis said. “My teammates played great … and we made our free throws at the end.
“Today, I even talked to my mom, my dad, everyone, and we just felt like we were going to win. We felt like we had good energy and that we were going to win. We’re kind of riding a wave right now.”
Contact James L. Edwards III at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JLEdwardsIII.