On several occasions in the second half of the District final with Saline on Friday night, Pioneer’s Whitney Gallagher lined up a three-point shot, let it fly and watched it bounce off the rim. She had done everything right – her position was straight on, form perfect, excellent release – clank.
Sometimes when that happens, players start to think that this might not be their night. Were the basketball gods trying to send a message? If they were, Gallagher wasn’t listening.
And it’s a good thing for Pioneer she wasn’t. The senior knocked down not one but two big three-pointers in the fourth quarter to help lead the Pioneers to a 28-26 win in a D-1 District championship at Pioneer.
Confidence is a funny thing – the good players never lose it despite the circumstances and Gallagher never lost it in that fourth quarter.
“I did think maybe I should pass (after missing the previous couple of three-pointers) but my coach is always telling me that if it’s there to take it,” she said. “I owe a lot to my teammates who helped get me open to take those last two shots.”
The first triple Gallagher knocked down gave the Pioneers a 23-20 lead but Saline answered with a 6-0 run. The second three-pointer – from almost the same spot on the floor – tied the game at 26-26 with just 42 seconds left on the clock.
She knew her shots were big.
“They both helped change the momentum back into our favor,” she said. “We were able to get some stops on defense that gave us a chance. And then Mya hit the big shot to give us the lead.”
Mya is Mya Hicks, the talented freshman, whose running shot off the glass put the Pioneer ahead 28-26 with 13.8 seconds left in the game.
Mya’s father, Tyrone Hicks, is the coach of the Pioneers and he is the one who has been telling Gallagher all season that if it’s open, take it.
“If you go through and look at all the games Whitney has played here at Pioneer you will see that she has made a lot of big shots for us,” Hicks said. “She has made shots to put us into overtime or shots to win games. If I need a big shot to win a game, I always look at Whitney Gallagher.”
Gallagher finished with a game-high 12 points, including the two triples and two free throws in the fourth quarter.
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.
“We just want to go as far as we can,” Gallagher said. “We have the best chemistry on this team then I have ever experienced. I have played with some of them since sixth grade and the younger players have fit in so well.”
Gallagher, who started playing basketball in the fourth grade, is dribbling to the end of her basketball career. She will go to either Hope or U-M for college and turn the page on a new chapter in her life.
But she’s still enjoying this current chapter, one that she helped extend.
“We have been to a District championship every year since I’ve been here and to finally win it is a great feeling,” she said. “We never lose hope even when we fell behind. We have worked so hard the last couple of years that we really needed this one.”
Gallagher, who has played varsity basketball the last three years, also plays for the Pioneer girls’ lacrosse team.
“Practice starts on Monday, but I won’t be able to make it,” she said.
And she’s a big part of the reason why she won’t make it. And if the Pioneers can beat Brighton in the Regional on Monday, lacrosse will have to wait a few more days.