D1 FINALS: Ypsilanti Lincoln with another buzzer-beater, upsetting Detroit U-D Jesuit for first title ever
EAST LANSING – Straight from Memphis with a bullet.
Living on the edge all tournament long, Ypsilanti Lincoln stunned Detroit U-D Jesuit 64-62 in an instant classic of a Division 1 state championship game Saturday at the Breslin Center on senior guard Jalen Fisher’s buzzer-beating jumper from the right corner.
Fisher moved to Michigan from Memphis last year to live with his aunt in Ypsilanti.
Underdog Lincoln (23-4) stormed back from being down 11 at halftime (34-23) and 60-51 with five minutes to go to pull off another last-second victory in tourney play. Blue-chip freshman small forward Emoni Bates hit consecutive game-winners at the horn in the regionals semifinals and regional finals, respectively, last week.
Amari Frye’s put-back hoop at the 1:34 mark of Saturday’s state finals gave the Railsplitters their first lead of the second half at 62-60. U-D Jesuit tied it on a twisting lay-up in traffic by senior floor general Julian Dozier and Lincoln was content holding for the last shot. Frye’s 3-pointer from straight away missed and the rebound caromed to Fisher on the baseline roughly 15-feet from the rim. Fisher’s shot hit nothing but net.
“I thought Amari’s 3 was good, but it went off the back rim and came right to me,” Fisher said. “I just put it up, I shot it, I didn’t think about it. Then, I just saw black. I was on the ground and everyone was mobbing me. … This is how we do it in the 734 (Ypsilant’s area code),.We kicked the door down.”
Saturday was Lincoln’s first state title. Fisher finished with 16 points and Frye tossed in 15. Bates, the No. 1 freshman in America and one of the most celebrated ninth-grade hoop phenoms to ever pass through the MHSAA, had a game-high 23 points, seven off his 30-point average. His 18-foot fade-away from the right wing knotted the score 60-60 with 2:43 to go.
“We talk about living in and for the moment, nobody saw this state title coming but us,” Lincoln coach Jesse Davis said. “This is a beautiful thing. It’s surreal. I’m almost at a loss of words. Just like the whole year, the whole tournament, we never stopped fighting, we never stop coming at you, whether you were favored against us or not. And that mentality was rewarded.”
Dozier recorded 18 points and six assists in defeat. U-D Jesuit team captain and Brown-signee Daniel Friday filled up the stat sheet for 19 points and seven rebounds. Friday’s seven straight points midway through the third quarter put the Cubs in front 45-39. A rim-rattling slam dunk by Friday going baseline at the end of the frame gave U-D Jesuit a 51-47 lead entering the fourth quarter.
U-D Jesuit (25-3) was the top-ranked team in the state for most of the year. The Cubs claimed a seventh Catholic League crown in a row.
Pat Donnelly, U-D Jesuit’s coach, was clearly dejected following the shocking finish.
“It’s hard to believe … it’s heartbreaking,” he said. “Right now, it’s pretty painful, being so close. Still, this team has a lot to be proud of, they accomplished quite a bit.”
Dozier and Cubs’ center Jalen Thomas (UMass) were freshman on Donnelly’s 2016 state championship squad. Prior to U-D Jesuit’s run of more than a half-dozen Catholic League banners, no team had won more than four straight.
The 6-foot-8 Bates made a point to declare in the postgame press conference that Lincoln’s time at the top of the heap in Division 1 won’t be concluding anytime soon.
“I’ve got three more titles to win,” he said.