FERNDALE – An unlikely hero has Troy back in the running for an Oakland Activities Association White division title.
Senior Larry Sylvester buried a 3-pointer with 50.2 seconds left against Ferndale on Friday night at Ferndale High School to give his team a 58-56 lead.
Troy (12-5; 6-1 OAA White) held on in the final minute to escape with a 62-59 win, evening the season series between the schools. Both teams are now tied atop the OAA White at 6-1 with three games left to play.
Colts coach Gary Fralick sent Sylvester, who played limited minutes, into the game to provide leading scorer James Young an option on the wing in case Ferndale (12-5; 6-1 OAA White) prevented him from getting to the rim.
Young attacked the basket, but instead of taking the shot he kicked it out to a wide-open Sylvester in the corner.
“He usually goes to the rim and scores; coach told him to watch my side and I was fortunate to knock it down,” Sylvester said. “It looked like it was going to hit the back of the heel (on the rim), but just thank god it went in.”
An amazing turn of events, considering Sylvester wasn't on the team until a couple weeks ago. He was cut from the team this year during tryouts after being sent down to junior varsity as a junior.
Sylvester actually had to convince his coach just to let him practice with the varsity squad.
“He’s something else, isn’t he?” Fralick said, smiling. “He emailed me again, again and again. I finally gave up and said you’re a practice player. He said basketball was his life, and it is.”
After Sylvester’s heroics, Young gave his team a four-point cushion in spectacular fashion.
He used his long reach to knock the ball away from Eagles point guard Jordan Ellis and create a fast break. The junior finished the play all by himself with a thunderous slam to put Troy up 60-56.
“Man, he comes up the big steal on my point guard,” Ferndale coach Tom Staton said. “I didn’t feel like he hurt us that bad (offensively) in the second half, but that’s what great players do. He came through in the final 90 seconds.”
Nate Stepney hit a 3-pointer to bring Ferndale within one at 60-59. The Eagles had to foul and Young buried two free throws with 8.7 seconds left.
Ellis had a chance on the final play to send the game into overtime, but his 3-point attempt bounced in-and-out of the basket.
After going down 17-4 in the opening minutes, Staton was happy his team was in position to win the game down the stretch.
Troy opened the game with five 3-pointers, four from junior guard Joe Leonard in the first five minutes. The Colts went into halftime with a 36-25 lead.
Ferndale responded in the third quarter with some hot shooting of its own.
Sophomore Robert Deiz hit three 3-pointers to cut Troy’s lead down to 49-47 by the end of the third.
“You got to give credit to them, they are a big and strong team that really hits the glass,” Fralick said. “I knew they were going to make a run at us and they did.”
The Colts had a hard time keeping Jacob Dotson out of the paint, and he had a couple of big put-backs to help Ferndale gain its first lead of the game in the fourth quarter.
Dotson was one of three Eagles players to finish the game with 15 points. Stepnet and Deiz also had 15. Young had a game-high 24 points for Troy and Leonard finished with 21.