HOULKA • Da’Shun Berry wasn’t ready for his high school career to end.
The state’s leading scorer took over in the fourth quarter on Tuesday night, scoring 12 of his 32 points, to lead Houlka over Smithville, 56-51, in the first round of the MHSAA Class 1A playoffs.
Houlka (19-11) advances to the second round and will travel to Pine Grove on Saturday.
The loss ends Smithville’s season at 23-7.
Houlka was down by three points with five minutes left, then Berry scored five straight to put the Wildcats up by a point. He then followed with two layups and three free throws the rest of the quarter to keep Houlka ahead.
“I knew my team was going to need me in the fourth quarter so I had to turn it on,” Berry said. “I just put the pedal to the medal and got to it. Coach (Seth) Burt pulled me aside at practice and told me not to let my senior year end tonight. I’m trying to bring the gold ball back home to Houlka.”
Smithville led after each of the first three quarters, and used an 8-1 run at the end of the third quarter to take the lead back from Houlka, 42-41, going into the fourth.
Khieri Standifer led the Seminoles with 17 points.
In the fourth quarter, Smithville’s Blake Williams had a free throw and layup in the first two minutes to put the Seminoles up, 45-42, but Berry gave the Wildcats the lead on back-to-back layups and Tarquavious Jackson put Houlka up by three with a putback layup.
After trading baskets for the next three minutes, Berry put Houlka up by five points with a layup, then hit three free throws in the finals 16 seconds to secure the win.
“I thought we did a really good job of locking in on defense late in the game,” Burt said. “I think we got a little shellshocked after allowing 20 points in the first quarter, but we only allowed 31 the rest of the way and that defense was the key to the game.”
Turning Point: Up by three points, Berry grabbed a rebound off a missed 3-pointer and raced the length of the floor for a layup to put Houlka up 53-48 with 27 seconds left.
Point Maker: Berry finished with 32 points, 14 rebounds, and three steals.
Talking Point: “Da’Shun means so much to this team, this school, this community, and so much to me. He wasn’t ready for his career to end. He stepped up in that fourth quarter and made the plays.” – Burt, on Berry