Boys Varsity Basketball
Game Summaries & Headlines.
The Huskies almost had the game wrapped up. And then Sean Donaldson pushed the Saints to a comeback win.
CLINTON TWP. — Sean Donaldson toed the foul line with 1.1 seconds left in overtime on Saturday afternoon at Chippewa Valley.
The St. Clair senior made both technical free throws, turned around, flicked his wrist up toward his lips and blew a kiss. On the ensuing inbounds play, he received the pass and spiked the ball as hard as he could as time ran out. Then he started jumping and waving his hands while joining his teammates at halfcourt.
Such a celebration was appropriate. The Saints had just stormed back from a nine-point deficit, forced overtime and pulled off a 59-55 comeback win against Port Huron Northern in the Macomb Area Conference Blue/Gold boys basketball championship.
When Lake Shore athletic director John Hartley presented St. Clair coach Mike Boullard and the Saints with the championship trophy, center Ryan Zimmer grabbed it and hoisted it in the air, and there was Donaldson, mouth agape, pointing at the hardware with glee.
It was Donaldson who got the Saints that win.
"Sean's a three-year starter who willed us to victory," Boullard said. "He wasn't going to let anyone quit, no matter the deficit that we faced. And, at the end, he's the one who knocked down the free throws and the big shots. That's a senior leader, right there."
St. Clair and Northern shared the regular-season MAC Gold title after both teams ended with 7-3 records, and it looked like the Huskies (12-7) were going to settle the score by winning the Blue/Gold title game on Saturday.
But Donaldson and the Saints had other plans.
Northern scored nine straight to open the fourth. But St. Clair went on an 11-4 run to make it a two-point game with 1:15 left in regulation. That run saw Donaldson make four free throws and a 3-pointer, while Jared Liniarski made a runner in the paint and Zimmer converted on a put-back.
The two squads traded free throws as St. Clair resorted to fouling to try and tie the score. Donaldson made a pair with 14.9 seconds left to get the Saints within three points. On the ensuing inbounds play, Northern tossed the ball away, and Donaldson recovered it and managed to attempt a 3-pointer 3.9 seconds later. The Huskies fouled the senior in the process, sending him to the line for three free throws. He made each one.
Northern guard James DeLong attempted to win the game on a drive to the hoop at the final buzzer, but his shot missed, sending the game into overtime.
The extra period saw St. Clair and Northern trade the lead once again.
Finally, Liniarski added a pair of free throws with 15.5 seconds left, and after Northern's Tyler Jamison's 3-pointer didn't fall on the other end, Zimmer made one more foul shot to extend the Saints' lead.
Jamison scored on an alley-oop with 1.1 seconds left, but a technical foul allowed Donaldson to make the final two free throws needed to preserve the win.
"I knew if we just stuck to what we did and played good defense, I knew there was a chance," said Donaldson, who scored 23 points, 15 of which came at the charity stripe. "Even when we were down by seven, I knew there was a chance.
"I'm just not a quitter. I'm a competitor. My team and I compete no matter what. We never stop."
The Saints (13-5) scored just two points in the opening quarter and struggled to keep pace with the Huskies until they found a groove late in the third quarter and made it a 29-29 score entering the fourth.
"It was extremely tough because Coach (Brian) Jamison had them (Northern) ready to play, and they knew every one of our plays, which is what you should do," Boullard said. "Our kids, at the beginning of the game, and even for the first three quarters, didn't execute. They were calling out our plays and we were like, 'OK, well, we don't know what to do.' But, at the end, we found a way to win through grit and facing adversity.
"It feels good (to settle the score vs. Northern). This was a district championship-like game. It had a lot of that feel to it, and I think it's going to help us in the long run."
Center Ryan McNeill played one of his best games of the season, providing a spark for the Huskies almost the entire game. He scored 10 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and had a staggering five blocks. But he fouled out late in the fourth quarter.
Early into overtime, DeLong, who also scored 10 points, drove to the basket but was called for charging, and he, too, fouled out.
Helplessly, the two sat at the end of Northern's bench in gray warmup shirts. DeLong grabbed a green Gatorade bottle and squirted water into his mouth as Donaldson made it to the foul line with 22.8 seconds left. The two just stared ahead as the free throws went in. Their team definitely missed them on the court.
"It's tough," Coach Jamison said. "Honestly, you can look at what you should have done after the fact, but that's part of the growth process. It's obviously a good tune-up for districts for us. We'll learn from our mistakes and move on. This would have been a tough pill to swallow if this was the district finals. We can at least take away that a couple of plays can change the course of a game."
Liniarski helped the Saints with 17 points, Zimmer added eight and Austin Schweiger scored seven.
Tyler Jamison paced Northern with 24 points and eight rebounds, and Cass Dobrowolski chipped in six points.
Brandon Folsom, Port Huron Times HeraldPublished 12:26 p.m. ET March 1, 2020 | Updated 12:28 p.m. ET March 1, 2020