BEST OF MICHIGAN CLASSIC ROUNDUP: Top-ranked Columbus (Ohio) Africentric slows down Detroit Edison
DETROIT — In the battle of Midwest juggernauts, size and speed mattered.
Having seen the speed of Michigan’s top-ranked team, Detroit Edison, first-hand in an overtime loss last year, the Columbus (Ohio) Africentric Lady Nubians opted to slow Saturday’s rematch down to a half-court affair, where their superior size won out, grinding out a 65-60 win on Edison’s home floor.
“We just wanted to play half-court defense. Last year, at our place, we tried to press them full court, and that kind of speeds them up, and that’s their game,” Africentric coach William McKinney said of last year’s 65-62 overtime loss to Edison at their own Nubian Classic. “And they really got the best of us doing that, so this year, we made an assertive point to come in and play some good half-court defense.”
Saturday’s rematch was the final of 11 games over two days at the Best of Michigan Holiday Classic, put on by Lady Baller Insider, featuring seven teams ranked in the State Champs! top 25, as well as out-of-state powers like Africentric, Chicago’s Whitney Young, Toledo Rogers and Columbus (Ohio) Northland.
The best match-up was saved for last, though.
Africentric (6-0) and Edison (2-1) came in ranked Nos. 3 and 4, respectively, on the ESPNW Week 1 power rankings.
The game also included nationally-ranked individual players in Mississippi State signee Rickea Jackson (No. 9 2019) and Damiya Hagemann (No. 15 2021) for Edison and Tennessee signee Jordon Horston (No. 2 2019) and Sakima Walker (No. 60 2020).
Thanks to a couple of early 3-pointers by Gabby Elliott, Edison led 20-15 after a quarter, but the bigger Lady Nubians used their size to outscore the Pioneers 20-12 in the second quarter, leading 35-32 at the half.
When Edison could control the pace, it was able to stick with Africentric, which isn’t as comfortable using full-court pressure defense of its own.
“From a defensive standpoint, no. We defend a lot better in the half court. But we like to kind of get up and run, and transition, and all that good stuff (on offense),” McKinney said. “What got us out of our game was that they started pressing us, and we started throwing the ball away. That was more just a credit to their effort. And, like I was explaining to the young ladies, they weren’t going to go away. They’re a very good team for a reason.”
Horston’s putback in the final seconds of the third quarter gave Africentric a 47-43 lead on Edison headed to the fourth quarter, then the Lady Nubians just used their size to keep pounding away, building up the lead.
“We played them last year, went to overtime, so I already knew it was going to be a dogfight. It’s kind of like we’re mirror-images of each other. But the difference is, they have a 6-(foot)-3 (Walker), a 6-2, and maybe a 6-footer, and we don’t have that length. We got pounded on the boards,” Edison coach Monique Brown said. “And then they got us in transition. Because we press up, we weren’t getting back. Those were the defining moments of that game.”
Hagemann finished with 18 points for Edison, while Jackson had 14 and Elliott 13. Alexia Smith led Africentric with 22 points, while Horston had 14 and Walker 12.
The loss snapped a 20-game win streak for Edison, as the reigning Class C champions hadn’t lost since Jan. 11, when they fell, 55-49, at Ypsi Arbor Prep, a preview of the eventual state championship game between the two.
No. 3 SOUTHFIELD A&T 68, No. 6 FLINT CARMAN-AINSWORTH 55
DETROIT — A few halftime defensive adjustments allowed the No. 3-ranked Southfield A&T Warriors to go on a 10-1 run early in the third quarter, putting some separation in a game with No. 6-ranked Flint Carman-Ainsworth that had been neck-and-neck through two quarters.
The Warriors (3-1) outscored Carman-Ainsworth (3-2) 17-7 in the third quarter, and made 11 of 16 free throws in the fourth quarter to close out the win.
“They came out after halftime and made a couple of adjustments on the defensive end that slowed us down a little bit, and then on the offensive end, they were able to get eight quick points and that turned the game around,” Carman-Ainsworth coach Lace Belill said. “
In the fourth quarter, as good as they are with the guard play, we were trying to speed them up — and we did speed them up a couple of times, but didn’t take advantage of it on our end. But that’s a good team. When you fall behind like that, against guards that are going to the next level, it’s a tough uphill battle.
“But I don’t think we quit, we continued to play had. Just got some things to work on. Got to get better.”
The Warriors held all-stater Destiny Strother (Marquette) to just one bucket in the third. She finished with 24 points, while Aaliyah McQueen finished with 23. Minus starting point guard Chenelle King, who was on crutches and in cast on the bench for the game, the Cavaliers got just eight points from the rest of the team.
“Actually today was probably the most unbalanced. We usually have four girls around double digits, from the six-, eight-, 10-point range. I haven’t looked at the book, but I think it was a pretty two-headed monster,” Belill said of King’s absence. “She usually averages 12-14. That’s a big piece we’re missing right now. We’re just hoping for her to come back when she’s healthy, but we just expect the next girl’s gotta step up.”
Soleil Barnes (Toledo), who transferred to Southfield from Nordonia High School in suburban Cleveland, Ohio, had 18 points for the Warriors, pushing her over 1,000 career points, and earning her game MVP honors, along with Strother. Alexis Johnson (Marshall) had 20 points to lead A&T, while Jasmine Worthy had 11 of her 17 in the fourth quarter.
No. 4 WAYNE MEMORIAL 71, CHICAGO WHITNEY YOUNG 56
DETROIT — Whitney Young got 24 points from Kyla Jones, but didn’t have enough scoring to keep up with the high-flying No. 4-ranked Wayne Memorial Saturday evening.
A Class A semifinalist a year ago, the Zebras outscored Whitney Young 37-26 in the second half, steadily pulling away for the win.
Jeanae Terry (Illinois) scored 11 of her game-high 30 points in the second quarter, as Wayne (2-0) put on an 8-2 run to start the frame, extending its lead out to double digits. Terry beat the third-quarter buzzer, as well, as Wayne ended the frame on a 10-2 run, taking a 51-37 lead to the fourth quarter.
Makailah Griggs-Zeigler had 15 for Wayne, while Alana Micheaux had eight and Sammiyah Hoskin had seven. Brooklyn Fort Davis had 11 points for Whitney Young.
TOLEDO ROGERS 80, No. 7 EAST KENTWOOD 73
DETROIT — It was probably a bad sign for the defense of the No. 7-ranked Falcons when South Carolina signee Zia Cooke had 15 points in the first quarter, and Toledo Rogers scored the final nine points of the frame to lead by 13.
While the previously unbeaten Falcons (4-1) hung around to the end, eventually cutting it to seven points in the final minute, it never got appreciably better, as Cooke scorched the nets with 43 points — many of the buckets of the acrobatic, highlight variety.
Rogers led 28-15 after one quarter, and 45-31 at the half, pushing the margin to 15 points, 63-48, going into the fourth.
Keliese Christopher had seven of her 11 points in the final quarter for East Kentwood, including a pair of free throws with 30.2 seconds left that cut it back to 78-71, but the Falcons could get no closer. Alona Blackwell (Oakland) had 27 points for the Falcons, while Kaybriana Hallman had 20.
No. 15 MIDLAND DOW 55, ANN ARBOR HURON 36
DETROIT — Picking the No. 15-ranked Chargers to pressure might not be a great strategy, considering their level of guard play.
Dow got plenty of scoring early from Maizie Taylor (Northwood), who made four 3-pointers in the first half, and late from Molly Davis (Central Michigan), who scored nine of her game-high 19 points in the fourth quarter, as the Chargers steadily pulled away from Huron. Dow had 15 assists on 21 field goals for the game.
Huron was within two points after a quarter, trailing 12-10, but scored just one point in the second quarter, falling behind 21-11 at the break. Siena Smith and Kaiden Glenn had nine each to lead the River Rats (1-2), who were playing without senior forward Eden Johnson (Fordham).
The Chargers (3-1) have now won two straight since dropping a 45-25 decision to No. 23-ranked Pewamo-Westphalia at the Ypsi Arbor Prep Icebreaker Classic.
COLUMBUS (OHIO) NORTHLAND 68, No. 18 BIRMINGHAM DETROIT COUNTRY DAY 61
DETROIT — No. 18-ranked Detroit Country Day Yellowjackets were headed for a blowout, up as much as 20 points in the first half … until one of their tires blew out.
The Yellowjackets (1-2) had runs of 9-0 and 14-0 in the first half, and were leading 33-14 when point guard Jasmine Powell (Minnesota) pulled up lame trying to get back on a defensive transition.
She sat out the rest of the game, and in her absence, Northland (5-2) outscored the remainder of the ‘Jackets by a 52-28 margin to win its fifth straight.
Alexandria Hamilton had a game-high 36 points for the Vikings, beating the buzzer at the end of the third quarter to make it a 53-53 tie, then giving Northland its first lead of the game at 58-56 on a fast-break layup off a steal with 5:40 left. Iyauna Bonner added 11 points.
Maddie Novak (Stetson) had 23 points — and seven of Country Day’s 19 second-half points — before fouling out with 41 seconds left, while Adrian Folks (Indiana State) had 17 points before she hit the bench with fouls early in the fourth quarter. Jamia Elam had 14 points, while Powell had eight before she was hurt.
The Yellowjackets will play next as in the Winter Jam High School Basketball Showcase on Dec. 22 at Lawrence Tech, facing No. 1-ranked Detroit Edison at 1 p.m.