In Play with Tom Markowski

Heritage shuts down Miss Basketball Jaida Hampton, defeats East Lansing, 57-36, in Class A final

Basketball   | Tom Markowski

Heritage shuts down Miss Basketball Jaida Hampton, defeats East Lansing, 57-36, in Class A final

Grand Rapids – Just when it looked like Saginaw Heritage would be pressed by East Lansing the Hawks put their trust in an old friend.

Heritage led 30-15 after a basket by Shine Strickland-Gills to open the second half before the Trojans made a run. East Lansing scored nine straight, the last three on Sanaya Gregory’s 3-point play, to pull within 33-24 with 5:46 left in the third quarter.

Heritage put a stop to that run in a big way. The Trojans went without a point for nearly five minutes and the Hawks scored nine consecutive points to double its lead.

East Lansing had nothing left. Heritage held the Trojans to 12 points the rest of the game and won its second state title with a 57-36 victory over East Lansing in the Class A final on Saturday at Calvin College’s Van Noord Arena in Grand Rapids.

“I don’t know if we played great (on Friday in a semifinal),” Heritage coach Vonnie DeLong said. “(The players) came out with resolve today.

“I’m enjoying this. This is my first state championship as a coach. We’re adding to the history. We’re proud of Saginaw basketball.”

The city of Saginaw has enjoyed tremendous success in basketball, mostly on the boys side. Since 1995 Saginaw High and Saginaw Arthur Hill have combined for five Class A titles. Saginaw Buena Vista won four Class B titles from 1986-93. Buena Vista also won Class C title in 2004 and ’06.

“It feels good to bring back a state championship, in girls,” junior center Shine Strickland-Stine said.

Heritage won its first Class A girls title in 2002.

Madison Camp led Heritage with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Strickland-Gills and Jessica Bicknell each scored 12 points and Mallory McCartney had 10. Strickland-Gills also had 12 rebounds and three blocks. Mo Joiner, a junior whom many say is the team’s top player, had four points, nine rebounds, and six assists.

The Hawks (27-1) owned a huge advantage in rebounds (43-23) and its zone defense forced East Lansing to move its offense away from the basket.

“We played zone because they’re quick,” DeLong said. “We normally play zone but this year we went with a man-to-man almost exclusively. We might have played zone two or three games.”  

Aaliyah Nye scored 18 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the 3-point range. Jaida Hampton, Miss Basketball, was held to six points and three rebounds. Other than Nye, East Lansing was 1-of-12 from the 3-point range.

“The 12 and 12,” Strickland-Stine said. “I don’t expect it. I just work hard at it.”

East Lansing (26-1), ranked No. 3, made its first final appearance since 2010 when it won the title.

“As difficult as this is,” East Lansing coach Rob Smith said. “We have eight players coming back next season and we look forward to it.

We are a team that doesn’t have a lot of size. We have to block out. It was 43-23. You’re not going to win many games like that. Strickland-Stine was tough inside.”