BOYS BASKETBALL: Southeastern’s Leonard Harper-Baker’s last second tip-in, stuns Cass Tech this time 44-43 in PSL semifinal
DETROIT – Last season it was Cass Tech beating Southeastern on a last second tip-in by Kyle Steward to send them to the PSL title game. So could history repeat itself?
It did, but this time it was the Jungaleers celebrating, after senior Leonard Harper-Baker tipped in a rebound as time expired, to have them prevail, 44-43.
"It felt good when it came off my hand," he said. "It looked good when it went in too.
I saw the ball coming off the back of the rim and I I just tipped it in. I thought it was going to bounce off the backboard, but it didn’t."
As soon as the ball went through the net, Southeastern fans stormed the court in celebration, just like Cass Tech fans did last season. Martin Scorsese couldn’t have written a better storyline than this.
"I think it’s kind of poetic justice maybe," coach George Ward said. "You almost can make a movie from these last two semifinals here."
Southeastern (10-6) has had its share of ups and downs this season, starting off 0-5 and now are one of the hottest teams in the state, that know one wants to play. They’re a grind it out team and Ward said Cass Tech didn’t want to play that type of game, as they like to get up and she the floor.
"We came out good and took a nine point lead I think," Ward said. "Cass Tech did a great job of scouting us. I think that D’Cari (Charlston) and Leonard (Harper-Baker) could have taken advantage of certain situations and Darryl Bingham had a great game last time we played team.
They’re defense did a great job, but we were not going to let them beat us three times in a row."
Southeastern forced Cass Tech to play their type of game, something you don’t want to do against them, yet they were down most of the second half.
Kenny Carpenter had a solid game for the Technicians, finishing with 12 points, including a lay-up with 1:20 to go in the third, that gave them the 34-27 advantage. But Southeastern would not just let them squeeze out a win again on their home floor.
Charlston only scored 13 points on the night, but they all were huge. His fade away in the lane with 3:10 remaining made it 39-38 Cass Tech. Then he would give his team their first lead since the second quarter, at 40-39, sinking both free throws.
"We just stayed at it and and I think ultimately that’s what it was," Ward said. "They were up five, six, seven points, but we just stayed at it, stayed the course and fortunately enough we stayed discipline enough down the stretch to win."
Down 42-41, the game got even more intense and both turned it up and bit and you could tell neither one wanted to lose. With 18.2 seconds remaining, Cass Tech’s trap defense forced Southeastern into a turnover, which Carpenter took advantage of, scoring to give them the 43-42 lead now.
Like most games of this magnitude, they won’t end without some type of controversy. First Cass Tech (12-5) wasn’t whistled for a goaltending on Keyon Oliver late in the fourth. Then after a jump ball was called with second just 3.1 seconds on the clock, Cass Tech coach Dave Dixon was screaming that it was their ball, the refs ruled otherwise and it felt like karma was just put into effect.
"I thought it was our ball, Ward said. "But I mean hey, maybe we go lucky again on that."
The Jungaleers didn’t need any luck, they just made more plays during crunch time. Ean Blackwell missed a corner three, but Harper-Baker (8 points, 7 rebounds) was in perfect position to rebound it and now they are going off to Calihan Hall to face Pershing again for the city title.
Bingham finished with eight points and 10 rebounds and four blocks. Sharif Black poured in eight for Cass Tech in the low-scoring affair.
"I usually make those shots, because I’ve already made some this year," Blackwell said. "I thought to myself like wow I missed it, but then LJ (Harper-Baker) got the tip and we won."