Donovan Slates photo by Mike Dickie
By DOUG DONNELLY
HUDSON – SMCC’s Nick Welch buried a 3-pointer with no time left on the clock Wednesday, ending Madison’s hopes for an upset of the state’s last undefeated Class C boys basketball team.
Madison was down by as many as 16-points before a furious fourth-quarter comeback tied the game at 54-54 with 14 seconds left. Welch’s 3-pointer, from deep in the corner, broke the tie and sends SMCC (24-0) to the quarterfinal Tuesday at Tecumseh against Detroit Edison (11-11).
Madison coach Jeff Webster was pleased with the Trojans comeback – both in the game and on the season. Madison was 7-7 after a three-game losing streak and won nine of its last 11 games and a district title.
“We played our game,” he said. “We just did what we do.
“We had a few turnovers early, but we cleaned that up in the second. I thought we took pride in every possession, because we knew they were going to come after us in the third quarter. They are not used to having teams hanging around them. When we were patient, and made them play defense, we got some good looks.”
Jared Sloop scored all 11 of Madison’s points in the first quarter and finished his career with a 19-point effort. Donovan Slates scored 14 and Darien Zeluff 12. Zeluff helped fuel a third-quarter run to get Madison back in the game with a couple of triples and a driving layup – eight points – in an outstanding one-minute stretch.
Slates was sensational, particularly in the second half, drilling jumper after jumper.
“We are a different team when Donovan plays at that level,” Webster said.
SMCC coach Randy Windham said the Falcons had an emotional letdown after Monday’s win over previously unbeaten Michigan Center, a team Windham called one of the two or three best teams in the state.
“It’s called survive and advance,” he said. “We didn’t play our best game today and they had something to do with that, but on the other hand, big players step up at the big time.”
Welch finished with 20 points.
“Even in the second half, when we were down, I felt that in every huddle, my kids felt like they were going to come back and win,” Webster said. “We had kids step up, that’s the bottom line. The seniors really stepped up.”
Madison closed out the season 16-9 but advanced to the regional final for just the second time in school history. The other loss came when Webster was as Madison player in 1979.
“I told the kids after the game, I didn’t know where this ball club was going to go when we were 7-7,” Webster said. “We were coming off a couple of losses to Whiteford and Sand Creek, then we had a bad loss, at home, to Morenci. I didn’t know. I credit the seniors. We had some long talks. We went 9-2 from that point on, beat some good ball clubs and won a district championship. We turned something that wasn’t going very well into a successful season.”
The loss for Madison puts a lid on the winter sports season for the Tri-County Conference.