Arbor Prep’s Nastassja Chambers set school single-game scoring record as Gators defeat Blissfield, 58-38
By Dave Holzman
Whitmore Lake – Even though it already owned a pair of 50-point victories and a district championship trophy, the postseason felt like it finally got under way for Ypsilanti Arbor Prep on Tuesday.
And then it took another eight minutes before the Gators rallied behind their trademark pressure defense and the brilliance of junior guard Nastassja Chambers to show whey they are ranked No. 1 and the favorite to win a state championship.
Tied at 20-20 in the second quarter against No. 6 Blissfield, Arbor Prep went on a 17-4 run over the end of the second quarter and start of the third to blow open a tight contest and beat Blissfield, 58-38, in a Class C regional semifinal at Whitmore Lake.
The victory gives the Gators (20-3) a date on Thursday against No. 2-ranked Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett (19-3), which got 16 points from Jessica Rotzoll and 15 points from Kendall McConico and defeated Riverview Gabriel Richard in Tuesday’s first semifinal, 58-35.
But the star of the night was Chambers, a Class B all-state selection last season, who earned her place on this year’s ballot Tuesday by scoring an Arbor Prep-record 28 points. Her five steals spearheaded the Gators’ trapping defense, which led to several fast-break layups for herself and teammates.
“I think she’s one of the best players in the state of Michigan, to be honest,” Arbor Prep coach Rod Wells said. “She showed it tonight. When she’s confident, and playing like that, and not thinking, and just playing basketball, she’s unstoppable. I was really proud of her.
“She had a great effort on defense and that helped set the tone. It gave her some opportunities to run out and get some layups and that got her into the flow.”
Fourteen of her points came in the decisive third quarter as Arbor Prep turned a tight contest into a rout.
“I was really nervous in the first quarter,” Chambers said about an opening eight minutes that saw her team trailing 10-4. “I was thinking a lot and the crowd was loud, and then it was easy.”
About her third-quarter scoring spree: “I got into the zone. I was feeling it.”
Arbor Prep struggled on offense early before senior point guard Zakiya Wells gave the Gators a lift. Zakiya Wells, a Class C first-team All-State selection as a sophomore, sat out the Gators’ last four games – including both victories in the district tournament which Arbor Prep won by a combined score of 137-25 – with an ankle injury.
She didn’t start in her return, but came off the bench and scored five quick points to energize Arbor Prep. Zakiya Wells, who will play college basketball next season at Northwood, didn’t miss a step as the Gators’ defense eventually wore down the Royals (22-2).
“We keep coming at them,” Rod Well said. “We went from one trap to the next trap. People off the ball were reacting to the ball well. Everybody was moving their feet and they were playing as one (unit). “They were predicting the passes and did a really good job and energized us on the other end. When you’re not making baskets, a couple of fast-break baskets will get you going and I think that got Chambers going.”