CHELSEA — Sean Cobb got to experience both the high and low point of his basketball career in a matter of minutes. The high lasted longer for the Williamston boys basketball sophomore forward, but the low … he won’t forget that.
Cobb put on a show in the final moments of Tuesday’s Class B state quarterfinal matchup with No. 2-ranked River Rouge. His Hornets were down by seven with just a few minutes to play when he nailed a triple. And then he nailed another. He encored those with a layup, plus the foul, to give Williamston a two-point lead with 57 seconds left.
A return to Michigan State’s Breslin Center was in the Hornets’ hands.
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“It was probably one of the best feelings of my life,” Cobb said of the second 3-pointer he hit during his solo 9-0 run to bring Williamston back.
And then that feeling faded. Quickly.
A missed Williamston free throw led to a tied ball game when the Panthers’ Darian Owens-White hit a floater. And then the River Rouge senior point guard completely spoiled Cobb’s shining moment when he buried a 3-pointer with three seconds left, eventually leading to a 54-51 victory for the Panthers over the Hornets at Chelsea High School.
“It was heart-wrenching,” said Cobb, who scored 11 of his team-high 19 points in the fourth quarter.
River Rouge takes a 3-point lead with 3.0 seconds left after this shot from Darian Owens-White. pic.twitter.com/l1Ve9hFxfv— James Edwards III (@JLEdwardsIII) March 22, 2017
The showdown was a rematch of last year’s state quarterfinal, which ended with Williamston advancing to the state semifinals for the first time since 1992.
The Hornets (21-5) would go on to lose in the semifinals to Detroit Henry Ford, and interim coach Tom Lewis sat at the podium after his team’s loss and mapped out Williamston’s journey if it wanted to make it back the following year. Williamston — which grabbed back-to-back regional titles this season for the first time since the 1992-93 seasons — was unable to do that Tuesday night, but Lewis said his ball club followed the plan.
“I just said that these guys were going to have to scratch and claw their way back to Breslin,” Lewis recalled of his podium speech last season. “We were right there.
“They did everything I asked. …I couldn’t be prouder of that team. It’s just going to be really tough to swallow this. (River Rouge) just made a couple of extra plays down the stretch. That’s all it was.”
Junior guard Cole Kleiver, who also had a team-high 19 points, knew the Panthers (24-1) were a good defensive team coming in. He knew they wouldn’t make many mistakes, too. The junior helped the Hornets weather a strong start by River Rouge by scoring 13 points in the first half to help his team go into the locker room tied at 27.
But then the third quarter rolled around. The Panthers didn’t waver. Williamston momentarily dwindled. The Hornets were held to just two field goals in the third quarter, and they went into the final eight minutes trailing by seven.
Senior guard Sy Barnett, who scored 11 points, sparked the fourth-quarter push with a solo 5-0 run. Then Cobb took over from there. But the Panthers, led by 24 points from Owens-White, snatched the glory from the Hornets and got their revenge.
“We were 10 seconds away, basically, from getting to the Breslin again,” Kleiver said. “It just hurt.
“(This season) has just been special.”
Contact James L. Edwards III at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JLEdwardsIII.