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Polfus' buzzer beater gives Powers North Central double OT win over Southfield Christian in Class D semifinal

Basketball   | Jeff Dullack

Polfus' buzzer beater gives Powers North Central double OT win over Southfield Christian in Class D semifinal

East Lansing – Over the course of the previous five years, Class D has been dominated by two teams, Powers North Central and Southfield Christian.

Southfield Christian won three consecutive state titles from 2012-2014. The Eagles made the move up to Class C in 2015 and North Central would go on to win the Class D championship in 2015 and 2016.

But when Southfield Christian returned to Class D this season, the two teams were on a collision course from the start of the season and finally crossed paths on Thursday evening in the Class D semifinals at the Breslin Center on the campus of Michigan State University.

With North Central trailing by one with 6.5 seconds remaining the game’s second overtime, North Central pushed the ball up the court as Dawson Bilski found senior point guard Seth Polfus wide open underneath the basket.

After briefly bobbling the ball, Polfus quickly collected the ball and laid it up and in as time expired to give North Central a thrilling 84-83 win, sending the Jets to the Class D Final for a third straight year.

In the Class D final, North Central will face Buckley, who defeated Lansing Christian in the second Class D semifinal of the day, on Saturday at the Breslin Center in East Lansing at 10:00am.

Polfus, a senior point guard averaging about five points per game this season, said that he knew he would be in position to potentially make the game-winning basket because of the way the play was drawn up during the timeout right before the play.

“I didn’t even really know I shot it,” he said. “I figured Dawson was going to come down the court and I knew I was going to be in that position because they were going to go double him. When the ball was coming to me, I was thinking ‘Oh man, the ball is actually coming to me’, and then I lost it and then I got to it. I saw a 6-4 kid coming at me, pump faked him, like I always do when I’m really scared and I just launched it. I thought it was an air ball and then I didn’t know what happened.”

North Central (27-0) head coach Adam Mercier admitted that he didn’t draw up the final play of the game that way, but credited his players for being ready for the situation.

“What a crafty move by the coach, to get the ball to your 5-foot-6 point guard who averages five points a game. There is no way we drew that up,” Mercier said jokingly. “But one thing I think summarizes these guys – and they’ve always been this way – is that they’re good at adapting. When you run sets and plays and sometimes you get in the way coaching, sometimes you let kids make mistakes and you let kids make plays and tonight that was an example with Seth.”

After Jason Whitens forced a second overtime with a 3-pointer at the end of the first overtime session, the senior gave North Central a 78-76 lead to open the second overtime. But Southfield Christian responded with back-to-back baskets from sophomore Caleb Hunter and Bryce Washington to give the Eagles an 80-78 lead.

Bryce Washington scored a team-high 23 points to lead the way for Southfield Christian (21-6), while Harlond Beverly contributed 22 points and seven assists in the loss.

North Central would regain the lead after another basket from Whitens followed by a free throw, but a Brock Washington triple with 6.5 seconds left gave Southfield Christian an 83-82 lead with just 6.5 seconds remaining, before the Jets would win on Polfus' buzzer beater.

“I think our guys had an incredible respect for what they accomplished,” Southfield Christian coach Josh Baker said. “And then you start watching them on film and you see how they move the ball, you see how they hit shots, you see how good those guys are and so we knew we were going to be in for a war. We just wanted to come out on the other end.”

Whitens finished with a game-high 31 points and 10 rebounds to lead North Central, while Bilski finished with 23 points and 12 boards Bobby Kleiman chipped in with 14 points and eight assists in the win.

Southfield Christian got out to a fast start to begin the first overtime session as six points from Hunter put the Eagles up 75-71 with 1:56 left to play, but baskets from Kleiman and Whitens’ late 3-pointer would send the game to a second overtime.

“I think win or lose tonight, I know this sounds very confident and I’m usually not a confident guy, but these guys have already built their legacy,” Mercier said of his team’s win. “They didn’t need to win this game to prove anything, they’ve proven enough to each other. That’s just a great team that we played against tonight, we have a lot of respect for that program. Tonight was the first time since (Josh) Baker’s been their coach that they’ve lost to a Class D team (in the playoffs). We’re the first Class D team to beat them, just great players all around and I think it’s just a fantastic game for us to kind of cement ourselves. But the guys in our locker room were the first ones to say it, we have one more game left. We have to come off this high and make sure we come down pretty quick because we’re going to play a very good team."

 

Buckley 68, Lansing Christian 61

East Lansing - Buckley advanced to the Class D state final for the first time in school history with a 68-61 win over Lansing Christian on Thursday night.

Austin Harris led the way for Buckley (26-0) with a game-high 28 point and 10 rebounds, while Denver Cade contributed 13 points and nine rebounds in the win. 

Preston Granger finished with 15 points and eight rebounds to pace Lansing Christian (19-7), while Forest Bouyer chipped in with 13 points.