EAST LANSING - With less than :15 seconds left in the Class A semifinals, one future Spartan posted up against another, at their future home, the Breslin Center.
Matt Costello, a 6-foot-9 junior for Bay City Western High School who is committed to Michigan State, received a pass near the foul line with his back to the basket. Brandan Kearney, a 6-foot-7 senior wing forward of Detroit Southeastern who has signed with Michigan State, guarded him.
Costello tried to back him down and go to work with a post move. Costello was mindful of Southeastern's helping big man, 6-foot-9 Dayton commitment Percy Gibson, hedging into the area over Costello's right shoulder. But to Costello's left, he didn't see Southeastern sophomore guard Kenyatta Singleton sneaking in underneath for a backtip steal. The turnover, and a pair of Southeastern free throws, cemented a 53-49 victory for the Jungaleers, sending Southeastern to the Class A state title game against Kalamazoo Central, which defeated Southfield High School in the other semifinal.
Costello was the cornerstone of a legendary run for Bay City Western, a school that has had only five winning seasons in basketball in the last 38 years. This was their longest run in the history of the program. He had a triple-double in the regional final against Clarkston. He averaged 22 points and 12 rebounds in the Michigan High School Athletic Association tournament leading into Friday afternoon's game.
But he said he will remember a couple of plays late in this game that he wishes he had done differently.
"At the end, I should have faced up instead of trying to back Kearney in," Costello said, "because I got picked from behind."
"Matt is a great player," Kearney said. "He hurt us going to the right early in the game, so we tried to make him go left after that."
The two future Spartans didn't share many words during the game.
"There was no trash talking," Kearney said. "None at all."
"During handshakes after the game," Costello said, "I didn't say anything. He was the one who said something. He said, 'See you in a little bit.' I nodded and just kept walking.
"I didn't really think about playing against (a future college teammate) until this morning. I was like, 'Hey, I get to play against him (Kearney).' It was fun.
"I don't really know Matt that well yet," Kearney said. "But we will get to know each other in the future."
Costello went down with a mild ankle sprain midway through the second quarter. He was able to put weight on it and jog, so they taped him up and sent him back onto the floor late in the first half. He played through pain in the second half.
"I don't know how much that affected him later in the game, but it might have," said Bay City Western coach Chris Watz.
Kearney had 8 points on 4-of-12 shooting. He was 0-for-3 from 3-point range, with 4 rebounds.
As was the case in Detroit Southeastern's quarterfinal victory against top-ranked Romulus on Tuesday night, Kearney often deferred to his three backcourt mates, who combined for 21 shot attempts. Edward Brown, the hot man for Southeastern on Tuesday, was 0-for-10 in this game.
Costello had 19 points on 8-of-18 shooting, including 1-of-3 from 3-point range. He had eight rebounds, 1 assist and two turnovers.
"I talked to Coach Izzo after the win Tuesday night," Costello said. "He just said congratulations and I hope you can keep pushing."
When asked by Lansing-area reporters why he selected Michigan State, Costello said: "The atmosphere here best fits me as a person, along with the coaching staff and the players they bring in best fits me, and also the success that they have had drew me here."
Gibson dominated the early stages of the third quarter by pounding inside for three field goals, keying a pivotal 15-0 run for Southeastern.
"Brandan Kearney in my estimation and in the estimation of a lot of people is the best wing in the state of Michigan, but with his back to the basket I don't know if there is a big fella that can play like my guy (Gibson)," said Southeastern head coach George T. Ward. "When you have a guy at 6-9, 240 pounds with soft hands, it's very important that you get the ball inside to him. At halftime sometimes we have to reiterate that fact. I mean we have great guys on the perimeter. Ultimately you play the game inside-out. He has really played in the last four or five weeks like a man. The University of Dayton is getting a great, great kid."
Gibson finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds while operating against Bay City Western's 3-2 zone, which boasted Costello and 6-foot-9 senior Brandon Havercamp (Saginaw Valley State signee).
"Their arms are long, so you have to find a way to get up a decent shot," Gibson said.
Kearney asserted himself early, with a lay-up off the opening tip. Later, he drove against Bay City Western small forward Aaron Tithof and scored over a helping Havercamp to give Detroit Southeastern an 8-6 lead.
Kearney's 17-footer from the baseline gave Southeastern a 12-10 lead. But he missed his next five shots, including an airball from the left wing against Bay City Western's zone.
But Kearney nailed a pretty 17-footer off the dribble to stretch a Southeastern lead to 41-35 with 1:14 remaining in the third quarter.
"I made some plays early on and I guess they made a few adjustments in the second half and they gave me a few problems but we found a way to get the ball inside to Percy and score off of turnovers and that was enough to win today," Kearney said.
"We worked hard to shut off Kearney at the baseline," Watz said.
Costello went to work mainly as a face-up big man, getting productivity off the right-handed drive in the first half. He also hit a 17-footer over Gibson, although those two rarely guarded one another.
"You would think that I would put my 6-foot-9 guy on their 6-foot-9 guy," Ward said. "But we had some length in a guy who was 6-foot-4 who could move his feet against Costello, and Kearney at about 6-7 could guard him. We went with smaller quicker guys on Costello so that Costello couldn't use his face-up quickness quite as much. Costello was really good against Orchard Lake St. Mary's and we knew we would have our hands full."
Costello helped put Bay City Western, a football and baseball school, on the map this year in hoops.
"It has been absolutely ridiculous in a good way," Costello said. "The emotional high, the energy that it has brought has been fun to watch. I just hope to do it again next year.
"Right now, I'm just kind of bummin'. I just want to see my family, see my girlfriend, just want to see 'em, hug them, shower up, go home and go to sleep.