Ellison’s buzzer beater lifts Beecher past Loyola, into Class C final
East Lansing – Throughout the state tournament, Flint Beecher has faced its fair share of adversity late in games.
The Bucs trailed by five points in the playoff opener against Flint Hamady with less than a minute left to play and fell behind by as many as 13 points to Southfield Christian late in the third quarter of the regional final, but overcame both deficits to pick up wins and advance.
On Thursday, Beecher again trailed late after the Bucs watched a 12-point lead early in the fourth quarter turn into a 59-55 deficit with just 47 seconds left to play in the Class C semifinal against Detroit Loyola.
After Beecher’s Jordan Roland cut the Loyola lead to two with a steal and a layup, Malik Ellison took a pass from Aquavius Burks and nailed the 3-pointer at the buzzer with a Loyola defender all over him to give the Bucs a thrilling 60-59 win to advance back to the Class C final.
“In practice, we run that play all the time and we do it in timed situations, like we’re down two and we got to get a bucket,” Ellison said. “At first, when I pump faked, I’m like should I pass? I saw him (the Loyola defender) jump, so I got a different angle with my arm and I let it go. I knew it was going in, I felt it.”
Beecher (24-2) will look to defend its Class C state title on Saturday when the Bucs face Grandville Calvin Christian, who beat McBain in the first semifinal game of the day.
Beecher coach Mike Williams said that throughout the season his team has proven to be resilient and added that it continued to stay positive, even after losing the lead.
“One thing about this team and what they’ve proven all season is their resiliency, poise and composure in the face of elimination,” he said. “They faced it against Flint Hamady in the first round, down five points with 50 seconds to go. They faced it against Southfield Christian, down 13 points with a minute to go in the third.
One thing that I can say I was proud of, I wasn’t proud of the fact that we gave up the lead, but I was proud of the fact that after we gave up the lead, it was all positive in the huddle, even Malik was saying ‘We got this, we’re okay’.”
Beecher would hold a 12-point lead early in the fourth quarter after a basket from Burks, but after a dunk from Levane Blake that would push the lead back to double-digits, 51-40, Loyola started clawing its way back.
Loyola (21-6) would rattle off the next eight points of the game, behind back-to-back 3-pointers from Ernest Adams and Keith Johnson to cut the Beecher lead down to just 51-48 at the midway point of the fourth quarter.
Loyola coach Joh Buscemi said that he felt his team finally got comfortable in the second half after talking at halftime and getting a chance to calm down, as the Bulldogs were making their first semifinal appearance.
“I think really in the second half, we just came out a little bit more comfortable,” he said. “I think we had a chance to get more than a minute or 30 seconds that you get in a timeout to take a deep breath and look at where we were at to understand that we hadn’t shot the ball well.”
After Beecher’s lead went to six points again, Loyola then went on a 9-0 run, highlighted by a pair of free throws from Pierre Mitchell that tied the game at 54-54, followed by a triple from Johnson that gave the Bulldogs a 57-54 lead with just 1:38 left to play.
Adams led Loyola with a team-high 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Ellison said that the games against Hamady and Southfield Christian early in the playoffs helped prepare himself and his team for Thursday’s game.
“It was crucial,” he said. “Basically, we just had to overcome a lot of things this season, but we always kept our poise and composure.”
Burks scored 22 points and grabbed seven rebounds to lead Beecher, while Ellison scored 11 points and Jamari Thomas-Newell scored 12 in the win for the Bucs.
Beecher would then erase a late four point deficit behind Roland’s steal and layup, making up for a missed free throw moments before, and Ellison’s 3-pointer at the buzzer.