By Matthew Bartow / WLD
Dexter was on the verge of advancing to the District final after senior forward Shannon Schooch stole a Brighton pass and subsequently made a layup, putting the Dreadnaughts up four points with 52 seconds remaining. Brighton had other ideas. The Bulldogs scored the game’s final five points to edge Dexter, 47-46, in a MHSAA District semifinal Wednesday at Ann Arbor Skyline.
Brighton had possession with 5 seconds remaining in a tied game after a Dexter miss. Brighton guard Sarah Ebel charged to the basket, caught the inbounds pass in stride, and drew a Dexter foul. After missing the first free throw, she converted the second to put Brighton up for good. Dexter had a chance to win, but a half-court heave came up short as time expired.
Ebel finished with 11 points on the night for Brighton.
“We did such a good job throughout the game keeping them in front of us and keeping them out of the paint,” said Dexter head coach Lauren Thompson. “We just let them in a couple times at the wrong time. My girls played so hard and with such great effort; I’m incredibly proud with how they played tonight.”
Thompson’s analysis was spot on. Leading by four, Brighton senior Kylie Seiter drew a foul with 33 seconds left after Dexter allowed Brighton two offensive rebounds, cutting the Dreadnaught lead to 46-44. Two seconds later, Dexter turned the ball over on the inbounds pass after the referees conferenced and reversed their initial call of Dexter’s possession. Brighton sophomore guard Mary Copple took advantage, scoring the game-tying basket with 28 seconds remaining.
Copple finished with a game-high 12 points.
Dexter’s late collapse was unexpected given its scorching start in the final quarter. Leading 30-29, Dexter senior Kayla Rivers drained a three-pointer on the first possession of the quarter, increasing the Dreadnaught lead to four. Following a Brighton basket, Dexter guard Sydney Pnacek answered with a three-pointer, stretching Dexter’s lead to 36-31 and forcing a Brighton timeout.
Rivers finished with a game-high 12 points for the Dreads, and Pnacek added nine in a strong performance.
“Kayla’s [Rivers] an incredible shooter, an incredible senior, and a great leader,” Thompson said. “She has a beautiful shot and is consistent. She’s a solid, tough kid, and I’m super-lucky that I’ve been able to coach her for so long.”
Alyana Babut had a strong performance in her final high school basketball game as well. After Brighton took its first lead of the fourth quarter with 3 minutes remaining, Babut nailed a three-pointer to give Dexter a 44-42 lead with 1:58 remaining. Babut finished with seven points for the Dreads.
The legacy of Dexter’s senior class in an unusual season
Between a delayed start, a mandated quarantine, and playing on back-to-back nights multiple times, this season has been anything but normal for Dexter.
Thompson said despite the uncertainty caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the team never had a victim mentality.
“They’ve been dedicated to this program since day one. We didn’t know if we were going to be able to have a season,” Thompson said. “They managed to not dwell in any of the negative or think that they were victims in any way. They were always grateful for their opportunity to play and get to spend time with one another.”
Asked about the legacy of the senior class, Thompson said it would be hard for her not to get emotional.
“I’ve coached this group since they were in fifth grade. They have been dedicated to this program since they were itty-bitty girls. They’re incredible woman, and they work so hard,” Thompson said.
Thompson said she hopes the team remains connected in the years to come.
“Most of them are going to play a different sport in college. Basketball is not their primary [sport], but it never got in the way of their dedication to our program,” she said. “I hope we can still remain in their lives forever, because we love them, and they are truly an incredible group of girls.”