Marian wins second consecutive Class A title by defeating DeWitt, 51-37
East Lansing – Birmingham Marian placed a stamp on what was perhaps the best season in school history on Saturday with a defensive gem.
Marian (26-1) won its second consecutive Class A championship by defeating DeWitt 51-37 at the Breslin Center.
It’s the school’s sixth state title and the first time the program has repeated.
DeWitt (25-2) was making its first final appearance since winning the Class C title in 1977.
Mary Cicerone coached all six title teams and she displayed her emotions when asked to assess this team’s legacy.
“Winning one is huge,” she said. “Winning two is really a good feeling. It sometimes doesn’t feel as good as winning the first. We felt we should be here.”
Marian was ranked No. 1 all season and withstood the pressure of being that team every other team wanted to beat.
“They came every day,” Cicerone said. “No matter who we were playing. They came every day to practice. On Thanksgiving Day they asked if they could practice. I told them I had to cook.
“These kids are the epitome of hard work.”
It took every ounce of that energy to defeat DeWitt, the final score notwithstanding.
Marian led 18-17 at halftime as DeWitt ended the half on an 8-2 run.
The Mustangs started fast as they led 10-0 before Abby Nakfoor scored on a putback with 27 seconds left in the first quarter.
Samantha Thomas’ basket gave Marian a 12-2 lead at the end of the quarter but all was not well in the Cicerone camp.
Thomas’ sister, Bailey, picked up her second foul and was on the bench for all but 1:42 of the first half.
Just over a minute into the second quarter Samantha Thomas was on the bench with her sister after picking up her second foul.
DeWitt took advantage of this and ended the half on a 14-6 to pull within a point. Lilly George and Summer Ward each had six points in the quarter for the Panthers.
“It was hard to watch,” Bailey Thomas said. “When I got back in I wanted to give it my all.
“My sister told me before the game not to foul. Then I fouled and she said what happened with the fouls. We feed off each other because we’re sisters.
“In the second half I looked to just play hard. I don’t dwell on (the fouls), I look past it. I’m not going to help my team if I look back.”
The score changed hands twice early in the second half and once Marian regained the lead, 22-21, on Samantha Thomas’ two free throws, the Mustangs scored seven more unanswered points to take a 29-21 lead on Bailey Thomas’ two free throws with 4:01 left.
But as it did in the second quarter, DeWitt withstood a Marian run and strung together a run of its own as it outscored Marian 7-1 to end the quarter trailing 30-28.
“It was kind of sketchy in the first quarter,” DeWitt coach Bill McCullen said. “Finally we were able to get one of those shots to fall. When (Ward) hit those threes it got us going. She comes off the bench for us and gave us a spark.”
DeWitt continued to attack and took back the lead, 33-32, on Claudia Reid’s basket and two free throws with 6:54 left.
But it seemed like the Panthers had hit a wall. Twice they had come back to take the lead. DeWitt wouldn’t score another basket until Ward scored with 2:15 remaining.
But it was too late. The Thomas sisters teamed for nine of Marian’s next 12 points and the Mustangs led 44-35 before Ward’s basket.
The Thomas’ willed their way to the basket, either scoring on layups or drawing fouls. Samantha Thomas had four baskets and was 4-of-4 from the line in the second half and her sister made two baskets and was 6-of-9 from the line.
Bailey Thomas said she and her teammates had to make adjustments as to how the game was being officiated.
“We were definitely going to the basket more,” Bailey Thomas said. “The refs were calling touch fouls.”
Samantha Thomas, a sophomore, led Marian with 17 points, Bailey, a junior, added 12 and Kara Holinski 10. The Thomas sisters each had five rebounds. Brittany Gray led Marian with eight.
Reid had 12 points for DeWitt, Ward added 11 and George 10.
Marian forced 20 turnovers, a fact not lost on McCullen.
“Their length is definitely a problem,” he said. “Across the board they can switch. When you are 5-9 to 6-foot and athletic you can do that.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Highlights from this game can be seen on the State Champs! High School Sports Show on Sunday at 9:00 AM on Fox Sports Detroit.