Millington’s Bradyn Henderson may have been as surprised as anyone to be the star of Friday’s 52-49 win over Reese in a Division 3 boys’ basketball district final at Millington High School following his buzzer-beating 3-pointer.
Whether on the basketball court or as a lineman on the football field, Henderson is used to filling a role that doesn’t always get the recognition it deserves, but is vital to the success of both programs.
His game-winning play gave the Cardinals their fifth district title in the last six seasons.
“We’ve always been known as a football school, but it’s becoming a culture with our basketball program now too,” said Millington coach Brandon Coleman of his program’s evolution.
Millington (15-6) played top-ranked Flint Beecher (21-2) in a regional final late Tuesday in Bad Axe after The Advertiser went to press. Please see Saturday’s paper for follow-up coverage.
Coleman had a hunch that Friday’s game against the Rockets (16-6) would likely be determined by more than what his top players Ethan Brady and Zac Yorke would be able to provide, and specifically pointed to Henderson’s breakout potential as one of the wildcards to a Millington win leading up to the game.
“The focus of our practice leading up to the game was Bradyn Henderson and Nick McClain could help us win if they controlled the glass, and they did just that,” said Coleman.
Henderson had a near double-double with nine points and nine rebounds, while McClain was nearly as efficient with seven points and eight rebounds.
Reese’s Gabe Robinson shared game-high scoring honors with Yorke at 17 points, but missed a 3-pointer with 10 seconds left in regulation in a 49-all game that Yorke rebounded and called timeout after with seven seconds left to give the Cardinals the game’s final possession.
Millington looked to get the ball to Brady with the game on the line, but the Reese defense didn’t allow it. As a result, Yorke brought the ball up the court before being cut off by the Reese defense near the free-throw line. Rather than force the shot, Yorke made the smart play by kicking the ball back out to his open teammate Henderson for the game-winner.
“Yorke’s not one to pass up a potential game-winner, but I called for it, he got it to me and I threw up a prayer,” said Henderson.
“I was ready for it,” he added. “I also hit the game-winner for us in our game with (Lincoln) Alcona in the beginning of the year at Little Caesar’s arena (home of the Detroit Pistons). “
Henderson said the highlight makes the short list of his best athletic accomplishments.
“Being a lineman in football, you’re not going to get the highlights you’ll have as a quarterback or running back,” said Henderson. “This is definitely right up there for me (among my top sports moments).”
Adding to the thrill of winning at the buzzer was the fact that the Cardinals were able to celebrate in front of their home crowd.
Yorke’s unselfishness made it all possible.
“He’s a special player, a student of the game and he’ll take what the defense gives him,” said Coleman. “We’re going to lean on him a lot next season.”
The Cardinals got off to a strong start in taking a 14-4, first-quarter lead, but the Rockets scored the final five points of the quarter to trim the deficit to 14-9 after the opening eight minutes. Brady was at the center of Millington’s early onslaught with a pair of 3-pointers among his eight total points in the first quarter that contributed to a 15-point night. He added five rebounds and four assists.
On the strength of Reese’s Jake Rau accounting for eight of his 10 points in the second quarter, the Rockets withstood Yorke heating up to produce Millington’s final nine points of the first half and 10 of its 13 overall in the second quarter. Reese led 30-27 at the intermission.
Millington reclaimed momentum in the third quarter to take the lead at 43-42 heading into the fourth and found a way to secure the win despite Robinson’s best efforts to spoil those plans with a trio of second-half 3-pointers.
After providing his team with an early offensive spark, Brady turned his focus to the defensive end and looked to slow Robinson down.
“Win or lose, it was his last game on his home court, and when they focus on Ethan it really opens up some of our other players,” said Coleman of Brady, a senior.
“Gabe’s one of the best pure shooters we’ve ever faced, so we ran a triangle-and-two defense in the second half with Brady chasing around Robinson and Drew Germain chasing around Isaac Johnson. We didn’t want their best players being the ones to beat us,” he added. “I knew it was going to come down to the fourth quarter, and luckily we had some senior guys step up to help us get the job done.”
Adam Smith is sports editor for The Advertiser and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.