Arbor Prep dominates Ithaca, heads to final
East Lansing – Ypsilanti Arbor Prep remembered the disappointment it experienced after falling in last season’s Class C semifinal to Flint Hamady.
When the Gators returned to the Breslin Center on Thursday they had the look of a team on a mission.
After a closely contested first quarter, Arbor Prep dominated the second and third quarters on its way to a convincing 72-44 victory over Ithaca to advance to a state final for the first time in school history.
“We learned a lot from last year’s loss,” Arbor Prep coach Rod Wells said. “That’s kind of why I pulled off pressing so much, I think in the bigger arena, we had a little more difficulty communicating with each other and we got behind early. We decided that if we’re not pressing we need to learn how to play man-to-man defense and I think that kind of changed our team and attitude.
“They remember the pain from last year. I remember waking up on Saturday morning and I didn’t know what to do. I was supposed to be going to the Breslin and they were feeling the same way.”
Arbor Prep (24-2) will face Traverse City St. Francis (26-1) for the title at 4 p.m. on Saturday.
St. Francis who topped Niles Brandywine, 53-40, in the first semifinal.
Arbor Prep led comfortably at halftime, 36-25, and quickly put the game out of reach.
The Gators opened up the half with a 17-0 run. Senior Nastassja Chambers scored six points and Ro’zhane Wells had five to spark the run and to push their lead to 53-25.
Arbor Prep went on to outscore Ithaca (24-3) 30-5 in the third.
Chambers had six assists and led all scorers with 24 points. Wells chipped in with 11 points and Adrienne Anderson had 10.
Chambers said that last year’s semifinal loss motivated herself and her teammates throughout the season. She said they were all more prepared coming into the semifinals this time around.
“It motivated us a lot,” she said. “We’ve been talking about unfinished business all year, every game that we scheduled this year was to get us prepared for now, so we made our schedule even harder than it was last year. So I feel like since we’re more prepared and we’ve been here before, we weren’t nervous, we just knew that we wanted to win.”
The Arbor Prep defense, as it has been all season, was suffocating as the Gators forced 30 turnovers on the day, including 11 in the second quarter, which helped the Gators take a 36-25 lead into halftime.
“Energy, anticipation and just playing together and trusting each other,” Wells said of his team’s success defensively. “We’ve been talking about trusting each other all year, so when you put pressure on the ball, you can feel like you’re on an island, so the ladies are understanding that somebody’s got your back and rotating. As the season’s gone on, they’ve understood that we must trust each other, you can’t just think about yourself, you have to play team defense.”
Ithaca was led by Kayla Belles who had 16 points and seven rebounds.