By RON DEUTER
KINGSFORD - Vanessa Freberg muscled in for a lay-in at the buzzer to send Superior Central to a thrilling 61-59 Class D regional semifinal victory over Stephenson Tuesday night in front of packed house at Kingsford High School.
Burt Angeli/The Daily News Photo
Superior Central’s Teslyn Tyler drives to the basket in a Class D girls basketball regional semifinal Tuesday at Kingsford.
A tight and intense contest start to finish, Freberg's bucket carried the Cougars to Thursday's regional final where they will meet unbeaten Forest Park.
Superior Central's Teslyn Tyner scored a game-high 29 points, burying two clutch threes down stretch. The first, with 2:00 to play, put the Cougars ahead for the first time since early in the fourth quarter. Her second made it 58-57 Superior Central with 1:14 remaining.
"I was thinking they were pretty far out, but I had to get it up there," the senior said of her late triples. "I was feeling it, totally feeling it."
After the last three, Tyner came up with a steal on the other end, forcing Stephenson to foul. Brooke Pasanen made one to make it 59-57.
Stephenson senior Tiffany Wangerin rushed the ball up court with less than 30 seconds to play looking to set up a play but made hard contact with Tyner just across the timeline, dropping face first to the floor in pain. Wangerin, the Eagles' leading scorer with 21 points, stayed on the floor for several minutes before being helped to the bench.
Eagles initially sent Lexi Johnson to shoot Wangerin's free throws, but Stephenson coach Mark Simon called for time - which he had to do by rule in order to open the possibility of Wangerin returning to the game. Sure enough, out of the timeout, it was Wangerin hobbling to the stripe. She drilled both free throws to tie the game 59-59.
"If she had a broken leg, I would have put her on the line," Simon said. "That's the kind of person she is. She is so tough, such a leader. There was no question who was going to take those free throws."
Wangerin immediately went back to the bench following the makes.
"She's a heck of a ballplayer," Superior Central head coach Greg Trowbridge said. "Probably the best player we faced this year so far. For her to be hurt like that, the pain she was in, and to hit those two free throws. It was simply amazing."
Superior Central had about 18 seconds of clock remaining following the Wangerin pair. Freberg, who finished with 18 points, fought off a couple defenders just to secure the pass into the lane. She pushed in on the right side of the hoop and got her shot to fall - sending the Cougars' faithful into a frenzy.
"We were trying to work the ball, trying to get it to Vanessa," Trowbridge said. "And it worked. I'm not sure how she got that ball. Somebody else had their hands on it. It rolled around and went in. What a great feeling!"
"I thought we had the right call on defense," Simon said of the play. "Freberg made a real strong move in there to get it in at the buzzer.
Even though barely a bucket separated the teams much of the game, Stephenson never trailed in the first half. The up-tempo pace of the Eagles was working and a push midway through the second quarter had the Eagles up eight briefly.
But Tyner, who sank six treys in the game, hit one late in the second to help the Cougars claw back. And a bucket by Freberg had the margin down to three by half.
"She lit it up," Trowbridge said of Tyner. "We practice them, and she does some amazing things with her quickness. The thing that impressed me most was she was guarding Tiffany the whole game, and I didn't give her a break. She was wearing herself out defensively, you could see it at times. So to have that offense, it was great."
In the third it was another Tyner long ball that knotted the score 40-40. Freberg followed with a nice runner and a three of her own to put the Cougars up for the first time at 45-42 with 2:18 to play in the third.
"That's such a well-coached and good team," Simon said. "I know those girls, I worked in that school district when those girls were younger. You could tell they were destined to something really well with this group. I'm not at all disappointed walking it out of there getting beat by Superior Central. That's a good team with really good kids."
The Eagles, winning a district for what Simon said was just the fourth time in school history, finished 20-3.
The Cougars, upset by North Central in last season's regional semifinal, enter Thursday's contest at 21-2.
"I have not thought much about this one because I didn't want to jump ahead," Trowbridge said. "This game tonight had me worried enough, and we were focusing on Stephenson.
"I'm not sure what to try against Forest Park. We'll see if we can hit from the outside, see what they're going to do. I'm not sure what the answer is for Lexi (Gussert). I have to sleep on that one."
Thursday's contest is a rematch of a 2012 regional semifinal won by the Gussert-led Trojans. Tyner missed that game due to illness.
"We knew it was going to be hard coming in tonight," she said. "We were really confident. We knew we had to do our best, we had to click. I'm so excited right now. I can't believe we did that, and I can't wait to play Lexi Gussert and give her a hard time."
Stephenson 18 18 10 13 - 59
Sup. Central 16 17 14 14 - 61
S: Tif. Wangerin 21, Kel. Johnson 13, Kar. Johnson 6, L. Johnson 13, Tor. Wangerin 6. FT: 7-9. F: 13. FO: Tor. Wangerin.
SC: Tyner 29, Pasanen 8, Swajanen 2, Freberg 18, Emard 4. FT: 15-19. F: 13.
FGs - S: 26-52 (3-pt: 0-8); SC: 19-56 (3-pt: 8-27). 3-pt -SC: Tyner (6), Pasanen, Freberg. Reb - S: 47 (L. Johnson 20, Tor. Wangerin 11, Tif. Wangerin 10); SC: 20 (Freberg 7).