Big moments are meant for big players. And Pioneer was looking for a big player in a big moment on Friday night in their District final girls’ basketball game with Saline. The Pioneers were tied in the final seconds and had several players on the floor with the potential of being that big player.
But when Pioneer needed a superhero to lead them to a District title the ball found the right player. Mya Hicks wasn’t wearing a cape but she was wearing a mask and right out of central casting the Pioneers had their superhero. And the superhero had the ball.
Hicks, the talented freshman wearing a mask to protect her broken nose, grabbed a loose ball under the Saline basket and raced up court. She headed down the left side of the lane and then crossed over in front Saline defender Ella Stemmer on her way to the basket.
Hicks let fly a running shot with her right hand that bounced off the backboard as she bounced off the floor after losing her balance. When she looked up, she saw the ball go through the basket and heard the roar from the large Pioneer crowd surrounding her at that end of the floor. Hicks’ dramatic basket gave the Pioneers a 28-26 lead with 13.8 seconds left. Hicks then stood up, stole the ball, and while trying to save it, dove into her team’s bench – yeah, superhero kind of stuff.
The ball ended up in the hands of Pioneer’s Felicia Stewart who was knocked to the floor but no foul was called and the ball was handed over to the Hornets with 6.3 seconds left on the clock.
Saline pushed the ball up the floor and with 1.8 seconds left in the game, Pioneer was called for a foul on Saline’s Amera Boyd. But the junior missed both free throws. On the second miss, Pioneer’s Asaria Turman grabbed the rebound and when the clock hit zero, the Pioneers celebrated the 28-26 win and their first District title in years.
COMING MONDAY: Feature on Pioneer senior Whitney Gallagher
WHAT’S NEXT: Pioneer vs. Brighton in Regional semifinal at 7 p.m. Monday at Skyline HS
The Pioneers (18-4) advance to Monday’s Regional at Skyline High School where they will face a strong Brighton team at 7 p.m. Brighton defeated South Lyon East 47-19 on Friday night in a District 17 final. The Bulldogs (21-2) beat Dexter 44-22 in the semifinal game.
The first Regional game on Monday at Skyline will feature Farmington Hills Mercy (16-5) against Wayne Memorial (21-2) at 5 p.m.
Hicks said when she got the ball she knew it was time to make something happen.
“As soon I got the ball and headed down the court I saw (Saline’s) Ella Stemmer getting in position to try and take a charge,” Hicks said. “I knew what she was thinking so I knew I had to try and get around her and try to get to the basket. I knew there would be some contact when I went up for the shot but I knew I had to finish. There wasn’t time to look to make a pass. I saw the time and saw the basket and knew it was up to me to try and get it in.”
The girl with the mask wasn’t the only superhero on the floor for Pioneer on Friday night. Before there was Hicks’ heroics there was Whitney Gallagher. And without what Gallagher did in the fourth quarter there wouldn’t have been a big moment to play for in the final seconds.
But don’t take our word for it.
“Nothing would have happened if Whitney didn’t hit those big shots at the end,” Hicks said. “And it was a total team effort all night long on defense. I’m just so glad we were able to pull it out.”
And Whitney certainly hit some big shots.
With the game tied at 20-20, Gallagher lined up a triple from the wing and knocked it down but it was far from the knockout punch. The Hornets would answer with a 6-0 run to take a 26-23 lead with 2:01 left in the game.
With 42 seconds left and Pioneer trailing by three points, they had a steal on the defensive end to get a shot at tying the game. And Gallagher took that shot, knocking down another three-pointer from almost the same spot as the earlier one to tie the game at 26-26.
Saline came down the floor and took a few shots at the basket before the ball bounced into the hands of Hicks – and you know the rest.
“We knew this was going to be a tough game,” said Pioneer Coach Tyrone Hicks. “Hats off to Saline for playing such a great game. I can’t believe we held them to the points we did and I can’t believe they held us to the points we had. It’s just so hard to play somebody three times.”
Coach Hicks was proud of his daughter Mya both as a parent and coach.
“That was pretty good,” he said with a big smile of Mya’s big shot at the end. “As a parent you are happy that your child can experience things like that and as a coach you are happy your player steps up and makes the shot there.
“But this was a big team effort today. A lot of people stepped up and did a lot of great things. I’m so happy for the seniors who we have told for four years that if they work hard good things will happen and they certainly worked hard.”
And a great thing happened on Friday night.
Gallagher finished with a game-high 12 points, including the two triples and two free throws in the fourth quarter. Hicks, Turman and Stewart each scored four points while Lauren DeWolf and Corine Burgard each scored two.
Saline was led by Stemmer (eight points) and Nicole Sweetland (seven points).
The Pioneers led 6-4 after the first quarter as defenses dominated, early and often in this game. Pioneer and Saline played to a 6-6 draw in the second quarter as the home team took a 12-10 lead into halftime.
Pioneer again scored six points in the third quarter and maintained a two-point lead 18-16 heading into the final quarter.