The 2016-17 campaign ended abruptly for the Mott Community College Bears on Thursday afternoon in Port Huron.
The issues that plagued the Bears in big games all season long came to the fore at the worst possible time, as Macomb turned a 21-5 second half run into an 85-84 win.
Macomb will take on Wayne County on Saturday for the right to play in the NJCAA National Tournament in Danville, Illinois. Wayne County pulled a shocking upset over no. 9-ranked Schoolcraft College.
“We had some great looks down the stretch that didn’t go down,” said Mott head coach Steve Schmidt to MRSN radio. “These are two good teams.We competed right to the end.
“It’s a process. We just have to keep working.”
The Bears led by as many as eight points in the second half but, as we’ve seen in several big games this season, they failed to put a good team away.
Mott (24-7) led by one at the break and started the second half with on a 9-2 run punctuated by a 3-pointer from freshman point guard Darwin Weis. The Bears led by eight points and just 10 minutes later, trailed by eight.
Mott actually tied the game at 76 after a basket by freshman swingman Marcus Cole, but were unable to wrestle back the lead. After a pair of Macomb free throws with five seconds left, Austin Walker’s triple at the buzzer only made the final score more demoralizing for Mott fans.
Mott shot 36 percent from the field and were out-rebounded by 14 in the second half. The Bears’ lack of a frontline scorer and defender came back to haunt them against the Monarchs and their 6-8 beast Gary Parry.
Macomb freshman Dwight Burton led the Monarchs with 19 points.
Sophomore and 1,000-point scorer Diandre Wilson scored 25 points with six boards in his final game at Mott. Shawn Pardee added 16 points. Cole and Walker, both freshmen, added 10 points apiece.
Unlike the past few seasons, it appears the program is back on the right track. That said, Mott cannot afford to start another season two returning players. If Cole, Pardee, Walker, Weis, Sidney Mason, Louis Taborn, and Deon Palmer all return, Mott could contend for a national title next season. But based on the last few seasons, returning everyone is highly unlikely.