Freshman Garrett Gadette had only one point for Milan in the boys basketball Class B semifinal against Detroit Douglass, it just so happened to be the most important point of the night.
Gadette was fouled with just 5.1 seconds remaining, and the score deadlocked at 50-50. The freshman stepped to the line and calmly delivered a shot that bounced off the front of the rim and in, giving Milan a 51-50 edge.
The second free throw missed and was collected by Detroit Douglass, but an errant pass up the court wound up squarely in the hands of Milan senior Donovan Verges who simply held the ball as time expired.
Detroit Douglass forward Daavi Bradley (#15) attempts to get a shot off over center Nick Perkins (#34) of Milan (Jake May | firstname.lastname@example.org)
Milan will face Benton Harbor in the Class B finals Saturday at 6:30 p.m. Benton Harbor rolled past Cadillac, 69-52, in its semifinal matchup.
“My guys did an incredible job in the second half, we were down by eight at one point…and I’m sure not a lot of believed we had a chance of coming back,” Milan coach Josh Tropea said.
“I thought we did a great job of not quitting throughout the end, and what a big time free throw by a freshman to win that game.”
Detroit Douglass led for the majority of the second half, holding Milan to only four points on one field goal in the third quarter. The Hurricanes led 42-34 heading into the fourth quarter.
After switching to man defense at times in the third quarter, Milan moved back to the zone to start the fourth, which proved to be problematic for Detroit Douglass.
The Hurricanes looked uncomfortable in the half court for most of the night, doing most of its damage against man-to-man defense and on the fast break.
“The whole year we’ve had a problem against the zone, and we knew that they were going to play it,” Detroit Douglass coach Nkwane Young said.
Detroit Douglass scored only three points in the first four minutes of the final quarter, opening the door for junior Nick Perkins and the Big Reds to make a comeback.
The 6-foot-7 center got on a roll early in the fourth, using his size advantage to bully would-be defenders down low, and showing his touch on a pair of 15-foot jumpers.
Detroit Douglass was still clinging to a 45-42 lead when Milan forced a turnover and then pushed the ball up the court for a transition 3-pointer from Verges to tie the game with just over three minutes remaining.
The basket sent the already noisy Milan student section into tizzy, jumping up and down screaming in support of their team.
The teams then traded the lead five times in a matter of two minutes, leaving Milan up by one, 50-49, with less than two minutes left to play.
After losing possession of a tied ball, Detroit Douglass managed to steal the inbound pass and draw a foul with just 23.1 seconds remaining.
The Hurricanes were only able to convert one of the two free throws though to draw even at 50, setting the stage for the last second heroics of the Milan freshman.
Detroit Douglass fell just short of making its first finals in school history, but the season was not without its bright spots.
Coach Young earned Class B coach of the year honors, and senior Darrell Davis was named the Class B player of the year by the associated press.
Davis, the all-time leading scorer for Detroit Douglass with over 1,400 career points will be playing for the Dayton Flyers next season.
“It’s a good legacy I’ve left for Detroit Douglass, I hope somebody comes in and replaces it,” Davis said. “I just have to work harder at the college level; it’s a stepping stone towards life.”