MILAN, Mich. — Call it fate, call it moxie, or even call it luck.
Whatever it was, Bedford continued the winningest season in its boys basketball history Friday night, rallying from a 12-point third-quarter deficit to take an improbable 64-53 overtime win over sixth-ranked Ypsilanti in a Class A district final at Milan High School.
The victory sends the Kicking Mules (18-5) to Monday’s 5:30 p.m. regional semifinal against Romulus at Gibraltar Carlson. This will be Bedford’s first regional appearance since 1993, when they reached a regional final.
“What do you say when you win a district championship against a team that’s ranked sixth in the state at the end of the year?” said first-year Bedford coach Nick Lowe, who took over a team that was 6-15 last season.
“These guys have really transformed. Every time they take the floor now they expect to win, and that’s a testament to them and how hard they’ve worked.”
The Mules had gotten back into the game after being down 35-23 midway in the third quarter, using a timely 19-6 surge to take the lead 42-41 on senior guard Kenny McFadden’s spin-move drive to open the fourth quarter.
McFadden, who had 16 points and eight rebounds, then closed that quarter with 4.6 seconds left in regulation by netting two clutch free throws to force overtime.
“We didn’t quit because we know we’ve got [a desire] in us,” McFadden said. “We’ve been a second-half team all year.
“If it was last year I would’ve been pretty nervous shooting those free throws. But I wasn’t nervous at all.”
“We haven’t quit this whole year,” senior guard Ryan Rightnowar said. “We’ve just been finding this energy when we’re tired, and we just keep going and keep driving.
“We just kept scoring and, every bucket, we just got more and more into it. We were getting jacked up.”
Energized by its rally, Bedford seized control in the extra period, outscoring the stunned Phoenix 15-4 in OT.
Mules junior 6-6 standout Jackson Lamb led the scoring attack with 20 points and added seven rebounds.
“We just didn’t want to lose tonight,” Lamb said. “This is definitely the best game I’ve ever played in. We knew we had to come back together as a team.”
Rightnowar had 10 points, and sophomore Jeremiah Harris came off the bench to contribute several pivotal plays while scoring 11 points and grabbing a team-high nine rebounds.
The Phoenix (18-4) shot just 27 percent (18-of-67) from the field, including a woeful 3-for-21 on 3-pointers.
Ypsilanti opted to begin a stall holding just a 45-42 lead with three minutes remaining. But it twice missed both foul shots in back-to-back double-bonus opportunities when it was holding a 48-45 lead, first with 52.7 seconds and then with 46.1 seconds left in regulation.
Lamb’s up-and-under scoop shot in the lane with 26 seconds left got his team within 48-47. McFadden was fouled on a drive to set the stage for his clutch foul shots.
If there was one play that typified Bedford’s grittiness on this night, it was sparked by the hustle of guard Dennis Guss, who was battling an illness. With the Mules up 55-51 and 1:16 left in overtime, Guss had the ball poked away by a Ypsilanti defender near midcourt. Guss dived for the ball, reaching it before in crossed the line. While on the floor, he found McFadden along the left sideline.
McFadden spotted Lamb streaking toward the basket for a two-handed dunk.
“This is a hard-hat, lunch-pail team, and that play just kind of symbolized that,” Lowe said.
Bedford led 16-11 after one quarter, but the Mules were 0-for-9 from the field in the second quarter, trailing 24-21 at halftime, then missed six of their first seven field-goal attempts of the third quarter. They were down 35-23 at that point, with 4:40 left in the period.
“We were down 12 and the look on my kids’ faces were like they were about to quit,” Lowe said. “We tried to reel them back in, because we’ve been in this position before. They are so resilient. I give them all the credit. They just made plays and we got stops when we needed to get stops.”
Bedford was 20-of-48 (42 percent) from the field, 23-of-32 at the line, and outrebounded the taller Phoenix 45-40.