In front of probably the largest and loudest crowd ever in the Chelsea Gymnasium, the Chelsea basketball team gave the defending Division 1 state champion Ypsilanti Lincoln and their sophomore phenom Emoni Bates all they could hand before falling in the final seconds to the Splitters 68-64 Friday night.
The standing room only crowd came to see the Bates show and from the start the Bulldogs showed that they were not going to give in to the probable future NBA player.
The Bulldogs were hot early, nailing four triples in the opening quarter to take an early lead. Ross Stofflet hit a pair of three pointers, while Adam Hauser and Lucas Hanifan each hit one to give Chelsea their fast start.
Lincoln countered with five points by Bates and held a 17-16 lead after one.
Bates started the second like he was going to take over, hitting three straight triples, but the Bulldogs did not flinch with eight points from Jordan Fansler and trailed just 36-34 at the break.
By now the crowd was really into the game and the roof nearly blew off the place when Stofflet took a pass from Owen Brown and went in for a dunk to start the second half, but it was waved off for a travel call.
Even with the waved off basket, the gym was electric as the Bulldogs and the fans believed they could play with Lincoln.
Stofflet followed with a pair of baskets to give the Bulldogs the lead and it would go back and forth in the third.
Coach Josh Tropea had the Bulldogs defense fired up as they had Bates frustrated, holding him to just four points in the third quarter. Ben Strzyzewski, Griffen Murphy and others gave the much taller Bates (6’9″) fits in the quarter and you could see it in his actions.
Chelsea led 49-48 after three quarters and the gym was going crazy.
Lincoln scored the first basket of the fourth to take a 50-49 lead, but Chelsea answered with hoops by Fansler and Stofflet to take a 53-50 lead with 4:51 left.
Following the timeout, Bates got a put-back dunk off a and a lay-in to give Lincoln a 55-53 lead and the momentum. He would sink a free throw and another put-back dunk and the lead would grow to 58-53.
The Lincoln lead would grow to six 62-56, but Hanifan nailed a triple to cut the lead to 62-59 with 2:15 left.
The Splitters hit a pair of free throws, but Hanifan answered with a pair of his own to make it 64-61 with 1:08 left.
Lincoln missed a shot and Chelsea had a chance to tie, but a three-pointer and a putback were off the mark to keep it a three point game. Bates then missed a three-pointer and Hauser took a long pass and hit a lay-up to make it 64-63 with 11 seconds left.
The Bulldogs fouled and Lincoln sank two free throws to make it 66-63.
Chelsea drove down court, but Lincoln chose to foul to send the Bulldogs to the line for two shots with a three points lead with two seconds left. Brown sank the first making it 66-64 and tried to miss the second on purpose for a rebound, but was called for a lane violation giving Lincoln the ball. They tossed a long pass to Bates who slammed down a dunk for the 68-64 final.
Stofflet led the Bulldogs with 19 points and while he might not be at Bates level, he showed tonight he can be electric on the court as well with three triples and the dunk that was waved off.
Fansler finished with 13 points and Hanifan 12. Brown and Hauser scored nine each and Jaylen Woody two.
Bates finished with 31 points, but was frustrated by the Bulldogs for a good part of the game.
The Bulldogs fell to 7-3 overall and 3-2 in the SEC White. They host Tecumseh Tuesday and travel to rival Dexter Friday night in another key SEC White game.
Photo’s by Mike Williamson