Dollar Bay survives against Pellston to reach boys basketball semifinals again

Dollar Bay’s Ashton Janke, right, puts up a layup against Pellston in the final seconds of their MHSAA Division 4 quarterfinal game played Tuesday at Escanaba. (Escanaba Daily Press photo by Justin St. Ours)

ESCANABA — The final 3.2 seconds of Tuesday’s Division 4 state quarterfinal basketball game couldn’t run out fast enough for the Dollar Bay boys.

After Dollar Bay sophomore Connor LeClaire sank a pair of free throws, the Pellston Hornets could only wish to get a good shot and force overtime.

Junior forward Blake Cassidy’s desperation shot from near midcourt bounced off the rim, enabling the Blue Bolts to escape with a 67-64 triumph in the Escanaba High School gym.

The victory sends the Blue Bolts (23-3) on a return trip to Thursday’s semifinals at Michigan State University’s Breslin Central, where they’ll meet Southfield Christian (19-6) for the second straight year. Game time is 5:30 p.m. The Hornets finished 23-3.

“All I knew is I had to make those free throws,” said LeClaire, who scored 14 points. “Anytime there’s a chance for an opposing player to take a shot at the end of the game like this, it feels like the longest time of your life.”

The Dollar Bay boys' basketball team celebrates after the final buzzer of their MHSAA Division 4 boys basketball quarterfinal victory over Pellston on Tuesday in Escanaba. (Escanaba Daily Press photo by Justin St. Ours)

Dollar Bay took a 65-61 lead on a pair of free throws by senior Brendan LeClaire with 15.2 seconds remaining.

Cassidy, however, drained a 25-foot jumper from the right wing to pull the Hornets within 65-64 with 4.8 seconds left.

“It felt like an eternity in the end,” Dollar Bay coach Jesse Kentala said. “I’m proud of the guys for playing right to the last horn.”

Pellston took its last lead (56-53) on a 20-foot set shot by Tanner Byard with less than five minutes remaining.

Dollar Bay responded with eight unanswered points, gaining a 61-56 cushion on a 12-foot jump shot by sophomore Davin Hill with three minutes left.

Hill scored 22 points and junior Ashton Janke added 18 for the Blue Bolts in a contest which the teams took a combined four timeouts in the last 30.4 seconds.