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Haslett clamps down on defense, knocks off No. 2 Williamston to claim D2 district title

Haslett clamps down on defense, knocks off No. 2 Williamston to claim D2 district title
BY: MATTHEW B. MOWERY Mar 1, 11:20pm

HASLETT — Blake Lampman knew better than to tell his coach ‘I told you so,’ but Haslett junior got what he’d asked for two weeks ago, drawing the key defensive assignment in Friday’s Division 2 district final against No. 2-ranked Williamston, the team that had knocked the Vikings out each of the last two postseasons.

Lampman helped limit Hornets freshman Mason Docks, as the Vikings locked down on defense, and knocked off the Hornets, 36-33, claiming the district title.

“Just crazy. It’s a great feeling. I don’t know how to describe it,” said junior Jack Dillon, who hit two huge third-quarter 3-pointers, and registered a key block in the final 30 seconds of the game to help seal the win. “I’m just so rushed with emotions right now.”

The Vikings (18-5) move on to next week’s regional at Marshall, where they’ll take on the host Redhawks (15-7) in Tuesday’s second regional semifinal at 7:30 p.m.

“We’re not done yet. It feels great. We all put work in, in the offseason, and we’re not done yet,” said Lampman, who had a team-high 11 points. “I mean, if we play like this, there’s no one stopping us in the state, so …”

In recent seasons, it has been the Hornets stopping the Vikings.

Ranked No. 2 in Division 2, Williamston (20-2) hadn't lost to a Michigan team all season before Friday night, beating Haslett (18-5) twice in the regular season.

The Hornets knocked Haslett out of the last two postseasons, last March rallying from a 13-point first-half deficit to win, 51-43, and capture their third straight district title.

“It feels great. First thing I gotta say is, (Williamston coach) Tom Lewis, that is one fantastic program. He’s done an amazing job with that team, and they kind of set the standard for our level. They’ve gotten the better of us, and I think tonight our guys rose to the challenge. We played defense like we haven’t played before,” Haslett coach Chris Smith said. “I told coach Lewis, it’s too that one of us has to go home tonight, because that is a really good basketball team.”

The Vikings didn’t want to let the Hornets get the best of them again.

“All of us guys were on the team, except for three seniors, last year, and we went through the same thing they just went through,” Lampman said. “We came into the locker room today, and said ‘That’s not happening.’ That was our mindset: ‘That’s not happening.’ We just came out and balled out.”

After a six-point win at home, Williamston came into Haslett’s gym on Feb. 15, and dissected the Vikings, winning 59-30. That was when Smith realized he should’ve taken Lampman’s offer.

“He’s a tremendous player. He’s just so quick. Blake Lampman, he really wanted that match-up. He wanted it last time, and I didn’t give it to him,” Smith said. “And after they came in here and beat us that bad, I said, ‘All right, you wanted it, you can have it.’ I think his length was really the key. He’s only 6-(foot)-2, but his arms are the same as a guy that’s about 6-6.”

The lanky junior held Docks to just two field goals — a 3-pointer with 3:30 left, and a layup in the waning seconds — and 13 total points.

“Absolutely. Absolutely. I want the best guy on the floor,” Lampman said. “That was big. We talked about it all week. Obviously, we had to play Perry and Lake Fenton (to get here), but the whole mindset was ‘Williamston, Williamston, Williamston.’ Coach told me today that I was guarding Docks, and I took it to heart, and was like ‘Let’s go.’"

The Vikings pulled out to a 7-2 lead in the first quarter, and led 9-4 headed to the second quarter, then saw their lead dwindle to one point, 14-13, at the half. But coming out in the third quarter, Williamston wouldn’t get on the board until 2:30 remained, on a three-point opportunity by Case Conley.

“We knew … third time, their gym, it was going to be a war. It was a war. They kind of punched us in the face early. We had the ball sticking too much. We just didn’t execute. We talked about efficiency on offense in our possessions. We knew it would kind of be a grinder. I wasn’t unhappy with our defense at all, but offensively I think we went inside a few times, either driving or in (the post), and we were waiting for some whistles. And it was physical,” Lewis said, admitting the drought to start the second half was crippling. “We were playing from behind at that point. We talked about that first three or four minutes of that second half. But our guys worked. We were locked in defensively — we talked so much about that — but offensively, it just wasn’t our night.”

Free throws helped the Hornets cut into the Haslett lead late in the fourth. After going 5-for-11 from the line the first three quarters, they were 8-for-10 from the stripe in the fourth.

Dillon’s two 3-pointers in the third quarter — the second with just 35 seconds left in the frame — gave Haslett a 25-15 lead headed to the fourth. Haslett scored two early buckets in the fourth to maintain the 10-point lead, but wouldn’t score again until 3:47 remained, as Dillon split a pair of one-and-one opportunities to keep the lead at eight.

A layup by Mitchell Cook cut it to four points with 1:41 left, the Docks got it down to three with two free throws at 1:15, but Lampman hit five of six free throws in the final 51.2 seconds.

Docks hit a layup with 13.8 left and a 3-pointer by Sean Cobb at the buzzer, but it wasn’t enough.

“They were just the better team tonight,” Lewis said. “I’m happy for Chris and those seniors. I think they’ve had this circled for a long time.”