Arbor Prep wins first state title
East Lansing – Throughout the season Ypsilanti Arbor Prep was a team that prided itself on defense and forcing turnovers. On Saturday the Gators’ defense again proved its resilience.
Arbor Prep forced 29 turnovers as the Gators pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 53-37 victory over Traverse City St. Francis (26-2) in the Class C final.
It’s the school’s first state championship in any sport.
Arbor Prep coach Rod Wells said the key to his team’s strong play in the fourth quarter was his decision to switch up defenses, which had St. Francis on its heels early as the Gators forced eight turnovers in the quarter.
“In the fourth quarter, we changed defenses and we change defenses quite a bit,” he said. “I think they just didn’t adjust to the change that we made at that point. They were running a certain offense that just played into the hands of the defense that we were running at that point. The same things that we were talking about in the first half that we weren’t doing, in the third and fourth quarters, we began to do.”
The top-ranked Gators (25-2) opened up the fourth in dominant fashion. Cydney Williams and Ro’zhane Wells each scored baskets to give Arbor Prep a 44-30 lead.
Nastassja Chambers, who scored 14 points to lead Arbor Prep, said that she and her teammates simply focused on winning the fourth quarter, trying to close out the win.
“We like to take each game quarter by quarter,” she said. “So we want to beat teams every quarter, because if we win every quarter, we should win the game. So winning every quarter was our motive, and we knew that if we just had a good quarter there was no way that we should lose this game. We focused on eight minutes and broke it down by every two minutes and we had to keep winning.”
Arbor Prep led 25-18 at halftime but St. Francis quickly narrowed the lead down to 27-24 after free throws from Lauren McDonnell and a 3-pointer by Sarah Chouinard.
St. Francis coach Keith Haske said that his team’s toughness and defense is what helped keep the Gladiators around in the first three quarters.
“I think we were tough and we made it pretty hard on them on offense,” he said. “We didn’t give them very many easy looks and the plan was to cut the lane off and make them shoot from the outside and I think we did a pretty good job of that. They’re quick and hard to contain, but I thought our toughness hanging around.”
Arbor Prep would manage to increase its lead back to nine points by the end of the third after a Morgan Keeler 3-pointer, a basket from Chambers and free throws from Kayla Knight.