Story by Kevin Lozon, Macomb Daily
Anchor Bay may not have played its best game on Monday night, but the Tars did just enough to win and move on in the state tournament.
Riley Vermander's free throw with 2:11 left in overtime was the only point Anchor Bay scored and needed, defeating host L'Anse Creuse North 40-39 in overtime in a Division 1 district quarterfinal contest.
"Some of our seniors stepped up and did some good things," Anchor Bay coach Jim Barnes said. "I don't know if it's a rivalry or not, but a lot of people at Anchor Bay feel that it is. The kids know each other and are very tight. We get to practice tomorrow, and I am thankful that we get to hang around for at least two more days."
LCN coach Jay Seletsky said the close loss was another in long season where his Crusaders just couldn't execute when they needed to.
"Confidence breeds confidence, and losing breeds losing," said Seletsky, whose team ended the season 1-20 overall. "When we've been in those tight games, we don't have that confidence. We had at least three opportunities to win this game and didn't do it.
"Anytime you go to an overtime session and hold a team to one point, you have a pretty good shot to win," Seletsky said. "We held Anchor Bay to one point and lost 1-0."
LCN controlled the tempo in the first half, taking a 23-19 halftime lead behind seven points by Micah Johnson and five from Jeremiah Williams-Stewart.
"We only had two offensive rebounds in the first half," Barnes said. "We've talked all week that everybody has film on everybody and there are no secrets this time of year. It boils down to effort and execution."
The second half belonged to Vermander, who scored all 15 of his points in the second half, including eight in the third quarter, pacing a 10-7 Tar run that cut the Crusader lead to 30-29 heading into the final quarter.
"Riley earned every one of those points," Barnes said. "I give him a lot of credit for being resilient and staying the course. We tried to put him in some different spots offensively and once we got where we were tied or ahead a little bit, and we got (LCN) to play man a little bit more. That helped a bit."
Anchor Bay took a 39-37 lead on two free throws by Jaylon Smelser with 58 seconds to play, before LCN answered with a layup by Jensen Davenport with 14 seconds left, tying the game and sending it to overtime.
"(LCN) is an incredibly good basketball team and that team is not reflective of their record," Barnes said. "They play together and have stayed together all year. It took everything for us to get over the hump."
Besides Vermander, Anchor Bay also received eight points from Ethan Swarts and Smelser. The win improved the Tars' record to 12-9 overall and moved them into Wednesday night's semifinal contest against Port Huron at LCN at 7 p.m.
"My experience is that the team that has a game under their hat has an advantage at the start," Barnes said. "Win or go home is a different environment. We'll just try to muck it up some more and see if we can end up with one more point than Port Huron."
LCN was paced by Johnson wit 12 points.
"Micah has come a long way," Seletsky said. "Leadership-wise, he gives the ball up when he has to and has really learned a ton. He just had a great ending speech to all the players to send the seniors out. He's going to be a force for us next season."
Vincent Longo added nine points for the Crusaders, while Williams-Stewart finished with seven points. Seletsky said it was a tough season record-wise, but added that the team did make many positive strides.
"Not only did these kids grow some, but they taught me a ton," Seletsky said. "They made me better because of experiences we've gone through. We didn't have a practice where guys were just going through the motions. They kept battling and had a great pregame practice yesterday. They paid attention to detail and our biggest downfall is playing a complete game. We were very inconsistent individually, but not with effort and following through."