By Jeff Steers
Springport High School girls’ basketball player Alex Maher was tough as nails in the second half of the Division 3 regional semifinal game against Michigan Center on Monday.
In the locker room following the game, she was a hot mess – barely able to speak with tears flowing.
Maher hit the game-winning shot with less than 5 seconds remaining in the regional semifinal game giving the Spartans a 53-51 win over the host school.
Springport advances to the regional final at Michigan Center High School on Wednesday to play Adrian Madison at 7 p.m. The Spartans are 19-3 on the season having won 19-of-20 since starting the season 0-2.
Michigan Center finishes the season with a 19-4 record.
“We just shocked the world,” SHS Coach Rick Saldana told his players in the jubilant locker room. “I told the girls we have won conference and district titles, but don’t have a regional title.”
Maher and Alana Nelson came up big in the second half for the Spartans. Springport trailed by 14 points after a less-than-stellar second quarter.
“We did not play our style of basketball in the second quarter,” Saldana said.
But he did make a good point at halftime.
“Coach told us we were only seven stops away tying the game,” Nelson said. “He told us we have to push through.”
Nelson pushed through most anything in her way in the first quarter. She scored nine of the Spartans’ 10 points.
A bad second quarter by Springport put them down 32-18 at halftime. Alize Tripp scored 11 points in the second quarter as the Cardinals took control.
But the Spartans had a plan to get defensive in the third quarter.
“The third quarter has always been our quarter,” Nelson said.
As it was Monday. Springport outscored Michigan Center 21-9 in the third quarter pulling within two points in the process. It was a heavy dose of Maher – 10 points – and Nelson – 11 points – that brought back the Spartans.
Stops on the defensive end also helped.
Springport tied the game just over two minutes into the fourth quarter on a bucket from Nelson. They took their biggest lead nearly three minutes later on a basket by Chloe Marsh for a 49-44 lead.
But the Cardinals would not go quietly as a 3-point play by Morgan Morris and two free throws by Shealyn Tripp tied the game at 49. A basket by Nelson gave the Spartans a brief two-point lead, but Tripp again tied the game with a basket with 46 seconds remaining.
Maher scored the game-winning shot with just under 5 seconds remaining. Michigan Center started up court, but called timeout with under 3 seconds remaining. A desperation shot fell to the right and chaos ensued on the Spartan sideline.
Nelson finished with 30 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Spartans. Maher tallied 16 points and made two steals for Springport.
Shealyn Tripp scored 19 points to lead the Cardinals. Alize Tripp added 12 points and Teagan Haynes added four assists for Michigan Center.