EAST LANSING – Now the Country Day boys varsity basketball team knows how it feels.
Last year, Yellowjackets senior guard Ray McCallum torched Lansing Sexton for 32 points in the team’s 71-47 win in the Class B finals.
In the Class B semifinals Friday night at the Breslin Center, it was Big Reds guard Bryn Forbes who lit up Country Day. The junior scored 29 points and helped his team eliminate last year’s state champion 69-59.
Things fell apart for the Yellowjackets (23-4) when Forbes took over the game in the third quarter. Country Day opened the second half with a 28-22 lead. Forbes nearly doubled his team’s first-half total all by himself in the quarter.
The junior scored 11 straight points for Sexton (25-2) in a two-and-a-half minute stretch that swung all the momentum to the Big Reds. His second 3-pointer of the half put his team ahead 46-44 with 2:22 left in the third. Country Day never regained the lead.
Forbes finished the quarter perfect from the field (6-6) and nearly perfect from the free-throw line (5-6) for 19 points.
“He shot the ball really, really well,” Country Day coach Kurt Keener said. “We went to a zone at one point to try to slow him down. He just backed up a little further and knocked down a three. He just scored a lot of different ways; he went to the hole and when you shoot free throws like he did, that’s how you have those kind of games.”
It was all part of a 32-point quarter for Sexton. After the game, Keener said he couldn’t think of a time when a team scored more than 30 points on one of his Country Day teams. The Big Reds shot 85 percent (12-14) in the quarter and outscored Country Day by 14 points.
“I have to give a lot of credit to Sexton, how they played,” Keener said. “We thought we gained control of the game in the second quarter, had a good defensive quarter. Then they came out in the third and busted 32 on us — not many people do that.”
The other big difference in the second half was Sexton’s ability to score in transition. Sexton finished the game with 20 fast-break points, compared to six for Country Day.
Country Day tried to press and trap, but the Big Reds used that to their advantage. In the third quarter alone they had eight points off fast breaks. Time after time, Sexton quickly advanced the ball for easy layups.
“They were pushing the ball on our misses and getting wide-open layups, two-on-ones, three-on-ones and that’s what really blew the game open right there,” senior Amir Williams said.
Last year, Williams had a double-double against Sexton with 12 points and 11 rebounds. He had another one on Friday with 14 points, 14 rebounds and six blocks. In the first half, Sexton struggled scoring against the 6-foot-10 center and shot only 28 percent from the field.
But, unlike last year, Country Day didn’t have McCallum on offense to make the Big Reds pay for the slow start.
“I think last year Ray McCallum came out and attacked them immediately, he went out there and tried to rip their hearts out,” Williams said. “I don’t think we came out as focused as we did last year.”
Country Day went into the fourth quarter down 54-46 and couldn’t cut Sexton’s lead under seven points.
The Big Reds were content with using up large amounts of clock on offense and the Yellowjackets didn’t shoot the ball well from beyond the arc. Lee Bailey had two 3-pointers in the final three minutes of the fourth, but it wasn’t enough. The Big Reds dashed any hopes of a Country Day comeback by hitting 15 of their 20 free-throw attempts in the quarter.
“We weren’t shocked with what they did, we just wish we could’ve responded a little bit better,” Keener said.
Country Day hoped to play on Saturday to try and earn its third Class B title in five years and eighth title in school history. Instead of playing in the finals tomorrow night, nine Yellowjackets seniors played their final game for Keener.
Williams and Chris Fowler were both four-year starters and after the game Keener said the duo have been “cornerstones” of the program since they were freshman.
“I’m still kind of in disbelief I’m not going to coach them anymore and that hurts,” Keener said.
The official MHSAA box score is available here.