King relies on defense, poise down the stretch to defeat Grosse Pointe South, 43-36, in regional semifinal
Grosse Pointe – Coach William Winfield in his 31st season at Detroit King and can’t remember the last time one of his teams scored two points in the first quarter.
What Winfield does remember is how many state titles his teams have won.
After all, that’s more important.
King’s drive for its sixth Class A title is still in motion as the Crusaders rebounded after trailing 9-2 after the first quarter and defeated Grosse Pointe South, 43-36, in a Class A regional semifinal on Tuesday at South.
King (22-1) will play Sterling Heights (15-9) for the title on Thursday at 7 p.m.
Sade’ Lemons scored 27 points and Maria Berishaj added 11 as Sterling Heights defeated St. Clair Shores Lake Shore (12-12), 63-41, in the other semifinal. Mackenzie Nemitz had 17 points for Lake Shore.
King was one-of-13 from the field in the first quarter and missed its first seven attempts in the second, and trailed 11-3. Leah Mathis’ two baskets and a Tia Tedford 3-pointer gave King a spark at the end of the first half and Crusaders trailed 13-12.
“Even when I was young I don’t remember scoring two points,” Winfield said. “The thing that carried us forward was our defense.
“We worked on trapping their guards. We did a good job on (Cierra) Rice. Most of his points came inside. That’s all right.
“At crunch time we know who to go to. Janae (Williams) isn’t a Miss Basketball finalist and we talk about that at school. We talk about playing in games like this.”
Defensively, King was outstanding. The Crusaders forced 14 turnovers in the first half, 23 for the game.
An Aliezza Brown basket gave South (18-5) an 11-2 lead with 7:12 left in the half and over the next 13:30 the Blue Devils managed just four points.
Williams had 10 of her 21 points in the third quarter as King took a 27-19 lead.
“I backed my team,” she said. “I played with poise. Before the game the game, we said this is our house.
“We were rushing our shots in the first half. We had to slow down. We had to play with poise. We had to play like this was our house.”
King is a balanced team but when the game is on the line Henry wants the ball in Williams’ hands.
When South made a run in the fourth quarter, cutting King’s lead to 34-30 after a Rice basket, Williams and Alicia Norman (seven points) teamed to go to the free throw line 14 times in the final 1:21 and they made nine to put the game away.
King was 14-for-24 from the line in the fourth.
“Our attitude and effort are the only things we can control,” South coach Kevin Richards said. “It was 9-2. Defensively, this was one of our best games. We’re smaller than they are and I think we did all right under the basket. They forced turnovers and we had kids who normally make shots who didn’t.”
Rice led South with 18 points and 12 rebounds.
Malayasia topped King with 15 rebounds.