BY WENDI REARDON PRICE
Clarkston News Sports Writer
Cagers began a 14-1 run with two minutes left in the third quarter to take the lead in the MHSAA Division 1 Regional 2 Semifinal game against Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, March 30.
Junior Nathan Steinman gave Clarkston Boys Varsity Basketball a 34-32 lead with three points on the free throw line with less than four minutes to go in the game after the Eaglets had led the entire game.
St. Mary’s took back the lead with shots on the free throw line and finished the game with the Eaglets moving on with a 38-37 win with a missed free throw from Clarkston with 0.4 seconds left.
“We competed extremely well,” said Clarkston Boys Varsity Basketball Head Coach Tim Wasilk. “We were down by a few points at each quarter – three at the first, seven at the second, three at the third. They never stopped fighting. They never stopped competing. We took a lead in the fourth quarter with a few minutes to go.
“We had chances to win. St. Mary’s made the winning plays and we didn’t. I am very happy and very proud of the way our kids competed in this game especially against such a talented team that hadn’t lost yet. We were right there and hopefully as we get better and grow with these players this year and into next year we get a game like that and come out on top.”
Junior Nathan Steinman led with 17 points with two field goals. Junior Zach Austin and senior Isayah Harris had six points each.
“Nate stepped up and made some buckets and got us going from the guard spot,” said Wasilk.
Wasilk added junior Keegan Wasilk was solid on defense – “bringing the ball to the floor, distributing the ball to the right people and rebounding.”
The Wolves held St. Mary’s top players to zero or only a few baskets.
“We had a pretty good game plan,” said Wasilk. “Their two starting guards that shoot the three really well did not score. Their point guard only had four points so we did a pretty good job on those guys. Their best player, Julian Roper, who is going to Northwestern ended up getting 16 points. He only had three baskets. He had ten free throws. We knew he was going to score some baskets, but Keegan did a pretty good job on him.”
Clarkston finished the season with an overall record 14-4 and 5-3 in the OAA Red with the shortened season which began in February due to COVID.
“It definitely brought up a lot of challenges,” Wasilk said about season. “Having three games a week, 4-5 days a week of practice and 4-5 days off since Feb. 8 up until last week. It was just all non-stop with all the COVID stuff, not knowing so many things and so many unanswered questions as you went through the season. It was stressful for the kids, the coaches and the parents – are we going to play next game, is someone going to get COVID, is someone going to sit next to the wrong person in class and sit out 10 days. All those things were definitely challenges.”
He added he is really proud and happy with our the players competed and kept their composure through it all.
“We really tried to stress one practice at a time, one game at a time,” Wasilk said. “You just never knew from one day to the next. They did a really good job of focusing on the day, focusing on the week and moving forward. We were fortunate to play all 15 of our games until the last week of the season – we had two games that were cancelled due to opponent COVID issues. Then, we went right into playoffs. I think going into playoffs we had, that was another challenge, we had ten days off before heading into our first district game due to not being able to play the week before.”
The Wolves graduate three seniors – Harris, Luke Scherler and Cole Wilson who have played the past two years on varsity.
“They are good kids,” said Wasilk. “We are definitely going to miss those guys – toughness, leadership, coachable. They were able to deal with adversity. They are leaders by example to the younger kids by showing them how to act during tough times while so much was taken away from them both insided and outside of the classroom their junior and senior years due to COVID. The life lessons they learned the past two years playing through two COVID season will help them through other tough times in their lives.
“The big thing is they got through one of the toughest basketball years you ever could have to go through as a senior,” Wasilk added. “Just to be able to play and do something and compete and get through a season like this says a lot about them, their character and who they are. They will be missed. I am proud of this senior group and the legacy they left.”