By Hank Minckiewicz
The cancellation of the Michigan High School Athletics Association winter postseason due to the Covid-19 outbreak was disappointing for all teams who lost their playoff chances. It was especially disappointing, however, to a team like the Wyandotte basketball Bears, who had a great regular season and were poised for even greater things.
The Bears won the Downriver League championship, they knocked off a scrappy Southgate team in their first district game and were set to face a sub-.500 Lincoln Park team for the district title.
A likely win there would have added a district championship banner and sent the Bears into the regionals against the winner of the Cass Tech-River Rouge district final at Fordson.
But it was not to be.
Instead the 2019-20 Bears will have to be satisfied with the league title, an 18-win season and the 53-50 district win over league rival Anderson.
In the district game, played at Lincoln Park on March 11, the Bears got a surprisingly tough game from Anderson, a team they had beaten twice in during the regular season. The Bears beat the Titans 65-47 and 57-49, but apparently the Titans learned some things in those losses because they hung with the champs all night long in the district match-up.
The Titans grabbed an early lead and led throughout much of the first quarter, but Wyandotte ripped off the last five points of the frame and the score was tied at 13-all after eight minutes of play.
Guard Hayden Loya canned a couple of long three-pointers to help the Bears get their bearings and it was the start of a huge night for the senior.
Loya scored 25 points in the game, including five three-point bombs and he led the team from his point position.
Loya had some help with the heavy lifting from the in-the-paint play from Nico Fernandez and Jimmy Breaux. The pair combined for 16 points, but an even bigger factor was their intimidating inside defensive presence and their rebounding on both ends of the court.
Wyandotte began to pull away a bit in the second quarter, opening a 27-20 halftime lead. The lead grew in the third quarter, but the spunky Titans scored the last nine points of the period to grab a two-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.
The final stanza was a back-and-forth affair with the Bears threatening several times to pull away, but the Titans kept hanging around
Then, Loya rebounded a missed Southgate free-throw in the closing seconds and made the put-back to give the Bears their final cushion.
It was an exciting finish to an exciting game, a game that turned out to be the last one of the season for both the Bears and Titans.
Anderson, which finished the year 8-13, got 14 points – from Giovanni Hugan and 12 – all on three-point shots – from Max Walker, who fouled out late in the game. Aaron Jaciuk added nine in a losing cause.
Wyandotte’s would-be opponent in the district championship game would have been host Lincoln Park, which got there with upset victories over Huron League runner-up Riverview and Allen Park.