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Shymanski’s buzzer-beater gives Grand Rapids Christian 59-56 victory over West Ottawa

By: Lenny Padilla, March 15, 2017, 10:19 pm

Grand Haven – Thad Shymanski’s uniform was drenched in sweat and his reddish hair was matted to his head.

He was exhausted. But he couldn’t stop smiling.

That’s because the Grand Rapids Christian guard had just hit the shot of his life.

Shymanski’s 3-pointer at the buzzer enabled top-ranked Grand Rapids Christian edge No. 6-ranked Holland West Ottawa, 59-56, on Wednesday to win a Class A regional championship at Grand Haven.

“In my mind, I’ve always imagined making a buzzer-beater as a kid,” said Shymanski, who finished with 12 points. “So that one felt really good to actually have that happen.”

The Eagles (25-0) advance to play Kalamazoo Central (21-3) in a quarterfinal on Tuesday at Lansing Sexton at 7 p.m.

The game was tied at 56-56 with one second to play and Christian’s Seth Milner lobbed the inbound pass from midcourt to Shymanski, who was the fourth option.

“We drew up a lob for X or JB,” Christian coach Mark Warner said in reference to Xavier Tillman and James Beck. “We told Milner if the lob’s not there to give it to Duane (Washington) or Thad. Duane and Thad are our best shooters from deep.”

But Shymanski said he wasn’t even supposed to get the ball.

“It was originally supposed to be a lob for X or James,” he said. “I don’t think I was even supposed to get the ball. But me and Seth made eye contact. He gave it to me, I made a hesitation, shot it … and thankfully it went in.”

West Ottawa (23-2) was down by 17 points with five minutes left then staged a furious rally. Tyler Bosma and Jake VanTubbergen scored all 17 of the Panthers’ points in the fourth but it wasn’t enough.

“I’m giving all those guys credit,” Warners said. “I don’t know if Bosma or VanTubbergen missed a shot in the last five minutes of the game. Those guys were awesome. They were playing freely. I’m proud we were mentally tough to come back.”

It was a sobering ending for Bosma, a junior forward.

“We played great … I don’t know. I’m shocked,” Bosma said. “We were protecting the rim the whole time on that play. We never thought about giving up a three. It was a tough shot.”

Bosma, who had 20 points, was happy with the way his team came back, however.

“The whole crowd was into it and the crowd was on our side,” he said. “We just couldn’t quite finish it. We were so close. It’s tough to be done. We know we had a heck of a season. There’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

Tillman, a 6-8 forward who signed with Michigan State, had 12 points and seven rebounds.

“I feel nothing but happiness,” Tillman said. “We’re blessed that he hit that shot and we’re blessed to be in that situation. I thought we would (get a shot off). I didn’t know how we’d get a shot off, but I knew we would.”

Beck, a 6-7 forward who signed with Oakland, had 16 points and nine rebounds. Washington finished with 12 points, including two 3-pointers.

Washington couldn’t be happier for Shymanski.

“He lives for those kind of moments,” Washington said. “We do that in practice shooting half-court shots. He’s a shooter and he knocked it down for us. He’ll remember that forever.”

VanTubbergen, who signed with Grand Valley State, finished with 18 points and five assists. West Ottawa’s Nolan Eccker, a senior forward, had three 3-pointers for nine points.

“The way we did it … it’s a relief,” Warners said. “We were playing really, really well and taking West Ottawa out of what they wanted to do. All of the sudden, they turned the tide on us.. We became complacent. You’ve gotta give them credit.”