Sophomore forward Michael Foster Jr. delivered when the season was on the line for the Milwaukee Washington boys basketball team on Friday.
Foster scored five points and blocked a shot in the final 25 seconds of overtime, making a go-ahead jump shot with 4 seconds to play, to give the Purgolders a 72-71 victory over La Crosse Central in a WIAA Division 2 state semifinal at the Kohl Center.
Foster left no doubt — on the court or afterward — that he wanted the ball.
“I’m down, clapping my feet, like, ‘I’m ready, give it to me, trust me, I’m going to knock it down,’” said Foster, who also blocked a shot by Central senior David Hayden with 12 seconds remaining. “I knew it was good when it left my hands.”
Foster finished with 14 points and nine rebounds and was one of four Washington players to score in double figures. Johntae Martin, a 6-3 senior forward, led the scoring with 15 points, and 5-9 sophomore guard Chianti Clay Jr. came off the bench to sink four 3-point shots for 12 points.
By winning the hotly contested, back-and-forth battle — its second state semifinals win over Central in as many years — the second-seeded Purgolders (22-5) advanced to the WIAA state championship game for the second consecutive year. Coach Fred Riley’s team will take on top-ranked Glendale Nicolet (26-1) in the state final at 6:35 p.m. Saturday.
“There’s no better way to go out for my last game in high school,” said Washington’s 6-5 senior forward, Deontay Long. “I believe the game will live up to the hype. I think we are going to come out with the win.”
Long scored all 10 of his points after halftime and added 10 rebounds.
Central got 31 points and eight rebounds from 6-5 junior forward Jonathan Davis, whose final shot at the end of overtime went off the rim. Earlier, Davis made a pair of free throws with four seconds left in regulation to tie the game.
Central held a 40-28 early in the second half and still led, 48-39, with 7 minutes, 35 seconds left in regulation. From there, Washington closed the second half with a 24-15 scoring run that included eight points from Long.
“I tip my hat to La Crosse Central. … Those guys laid it all on the table tonight,” Riley said. “They came ready to play. They wanted to (avenge) themselves for last year. That team is good enough to be playing tomorrow night, they really are.
“But I thought at the end of the day, we have some guys that set a goal last year, and they weren’t going to let (anything) stand in the way of them accomplishing that and getting back to this point (Saturday) night. … We are excited about the opportunity of being able to play Nicolet in the platform of a championship game. I know my guys are ready.”