EAST LANSING – Chris Mustaine remembers the August day.
The first-year Lansing Christian coach remembers that first meeting with the senior core of his basketball program and picking their brains about what they wanted to accomplish this season.
And he enjoyed being a part of the journey they took him on during his debut season in the program.
That journey fell a little short of the ultimate goal of a state championship with Thursday’s 68-61 loss to Buckley in a Class D state semifinal at Breslin Center.
“They laid it out and said we want to be in the Breslin and we want to be the best possible team we can be,” Mustaine said. “They have spent every day since that day in August trying to do that all the way up until (Thursday). Even in the middle of the fourth quarter, we said, ‘How can we get better? The way the game is being played right now, how can we get better?’ And they did.
“We just came up a couple shots short. (We were) a couple more missed free throws (by Buckley) short of having a shot at it in the end. That’s what you want. You want to be able to play hard and you want to be able to look back once you take your jersey off and go, ‘I gave it everything I had.’ Each one of these guys will be able to do that.”
The Pilgrims were led by that senior trio in the season-ended loss. Granger had 15 points on 6 of 8 shooting and had eight rebounds, while Bouyer scored 13 points and Havey added 10 points.
That trio keyed a successful run for Lansing Christian (19-7) that included league, district and regional championships.
Bouyer and classmates were desperate to deliver the Pilgrims their first boys basketball state title, but were unable to overcome a 10-point deficit in the middle stages of the fourth quarter.
But the Pilgrims had a chance. And as momentum shifted some in their direction late, Bouyer sensed No. 8-ranked Lansing Christian could have an opportunity to play for a state title on the Breslin Center floor on Saturday morning against top-ranked Powers North Central.
But No. 4 Buckley, which was led by a 28-point night from Austin Harris, prevented that from happening to improve to 26-0 and earn a shot to try to end North Central’s national record 82-game winning streak.
Lansing Christian pulled within two after a corner 3-pointer by Nick Jamieson with just over a minute remaining. Buckley (26-0) converted 7 of 8 free throws in the final minute to close out the win and advance to a state championship game for the first time in program history.
“I thought when Nick hit that big shot in the corner, I thought, ‘OK, it’s going to turn,’” Bouyer said. “That was a big shot. That was a big step up for him so I thought the spur was going to turn. Nothing just clicked. Nothing really turned like it normally did and we couldn’t make up the deficit.”
Contact Brian Calloway at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @brian_calloway.