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Area girls basketball teams raise hopes of making long tournament runs

By: Scott Burnstein, March 1, 2015, 9:00 pm





   Here’s a look at some Metro Detroit area girls basketball teams with chances at putting together a run to the state semifinals at the Breslin Center in East Lansing later this month.

   Defending state champ Marian (19-1) is locked and loaded and the favorite in Class A, but there are other stellar squads from the area who could be Breslin-bound in a few weeks as well.

   Detroit King (18-1) took Marian to the brink in the Operation Friendship championship last week, having a potential game-winning shot just rim out at the buzzer.

   The Detroit Public School League champion is spearheaded by star senior point guard Janae Williams, one of the top backcourt prospects in the area (she’s undeclared for her college ball). King wouldn’t have to face Marian again until the semifinals.

   Grosse Pointe South (16-4) has some major big-game experience in the backcourt in senior captain and Miss Basketball candidate Cierra Rice, a 5-foot-9 combo guard that helped lead the Blue Devils into the Class A state finals as a freshman and sophomore. Rice signed with Illinois and is averaging 20 points, nine rebounds and five assists per game.

   Salem (16-4) is one of the hottest club in Class A. The Rocks are riding a 16-game winning streak and are fresh on the heels of an exhilarating come-from-behind 47-40 defeat of      Waterford Kettering in double overtime for the Kensington Lakes Activities Association crown. Salem is led by Shara Long, who had 28 points against Kettering and a tying bucket at the first-overtime horn to force a second extra session.

    “We’re playing our best basketball late in the season and as a coach you always want to see to that,” second-year Salem coach Lindsey Klemmer said. “We’ve found our groove and hopefully it will translate into success in the tournament.”

Kettering can’t be overlooked either. The Captains are 19-1 and headlined by a veteran starting lineup of Julia Kroll, Emily Bernas, Lillia Schoof and the Tewes sisters (Lauren and Haley).

“How we ended the season will make us more poised going forward,” Kettering coach Scott Woodhull said. “We’ll learn from that loss. We have good decision makers on this team.”

Out of the Oakland Activities Association, Southfield Lathrup (19-1) and Clarkston (12-8) could pose problems for a handful of teams.

Southfield-Lathrup’s only loss of the year was to Toledo Rogers in late December. The Chargers are mostly underclassmen, but they are extremely talented and athletic. Sophomore Deja Church and juniors Antoinette Miller, and the Bello twins (Taiye and Khinde) are all Division I college recruits. They could meet Marian in the regional semifinals.

“We’re still young, however I think we have enough weapons and experience to get into the tournament and do a lot of damage,” Southfield-Lathrup coach Michelle Marshall said.

Clarkston probably underachieved in the regular season, despite being anchored by Miss Basketball candidate Erika Davenport in the middle. Davenport was selected the Class A Player of the Year in 2014 (Associated Press) and she signed with Marquette. Davenport is one of the most dominant players in the state, averaging 23 points and 13 rebounds per night.

“When you have someone the caliber of Erika, you give yourself a chance to do some things that maybe other 12-8 teams might not be able to do,” Clarkston coach Tim Wasilk said. “That’s no guarantee. We need to play better if we want to last in the tournament past the first week.”

Wasilk and the Wolves tip-off tourney action Monday against rival Rochester Adams in a rematch of a postseason-opener last March when Davenport grabbed a defensive rebound and then went coast-to-coast for a game-winning hoop at the buzzer.

In Class B Detroit Country Day (15-4) has a stacked lineup of college recruits paced by sophomore sensation Destiny Pitts. The state’s all-time winningest coach in Frank Orlando (10 state titles) will be trying to return to the Breslin Center for the first time since 2010.

From the Class D ranks, Birmingham Roeper will attempt to become the feel-good story of the tourney as the 16-4 Roughriders hope to send their coach, Ernie Righetti (close to 800 total wins between Roeper’s girls and boys programs) into his retirement with his first-ever trip to the state semifinal round.