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S. Christian shocks Country Day, 57-46

By: Tom Markowski, March 18, 2016, 9:00 pm


East Lansing – Take nothing for granted in March as upsets often become the norm.

Grand Rapids South Christian took down defending champion Detroit Country Day on Friday as the Sailors led nearly the entire game and defeated the Yellowjackets 57-46 in a Class B semifinal at the Breslin Center.

South Christian (25-2) will play the winner of the Marshall-Bay City John Glenn game for the title on Saturday at 6 p.m.

Country Day (24-2) was ranked No. 1 all season in Class B and was ranked No. 2 in the Super 10 behind Saginaw Heritage, the only team to defeat County Day during the regular season.

These facts mattered little to the No. 2-ranked Sailors. Not once did they get rattled. They were the ones who made the plays defensively, the ones who played with more control.

Markayla Vander’s 3-point play gave South Christian a 3-2 and Country Day was forced to play from behind thereafter.

And the Yellowjackets didn’t handle this added pressure well.

 Fouls and free throws played a major role as did South Christian’s defense, which forced 18 turnovers, seven in the first quarter as the Sailors took a 14-6 lead.

Vander could sense almost immediately that her team had an edge.

“It didn’t seem like they wanted it as much as we did,” she said.

Frustration began to mount for the Yellowjackets. Destiny Pitts, one of the state’s top players, missed a layup then a second later fouled Mariel Bruxvoort who made both free throws to give South Christian a 22-6 lead with 2:33 left in the first half.

Country Day fouls and the Sailors ability to convert at the line were common themes.

“What hurt us was some of our key players got into foul trouble,” veteran Country Day coach Frank Orlando said. “They got into the bonus and didn’t miss many.”

Pitts, hounded by Vander all game, was assessed her third foul with 7:33 left in the third. Less than a minute later she was called for an offensive foul and didn’t play the final 6:41 of the quarter.

South Christian led 26-16 at the time and, to Country Day’s credit, the Yellowjackets didn’t allow the game to get away from them. Country Day center Tylar Bennett also picked up her fourth foul in the quarter and was removed with two minutes left.

South Christian led 37-26 before Orlando brought back Pitts and Bennett to start the fourth.

Pitts scored 10 of her 14 points in the fourth and her 3-pointer with 4:40 left trimmed the deficit to 41-37. Back-to-back baskets by Zoie Hulst and Isabellea Scott pushed the lead to 45-37 and Country Day never got closer than five.

“My key words to my players were,” South Christian first-year coach Kim Legge said. “We have to get a stop. If we get that we usually get some good looks on the other end.”

Senior point guard Jennifer DeBoer said her team’s defense was outstanding and helped create the opportunities her coach said were so vital.

“We were talking real well on defense,” she said. “Getting stops on defense helped our offense.”

DeBoer led the Sailors with 18 points, three steals and three assists. Vander had 14 points and Bruxvoort 10. Four players had five or more rebounds led by Sydney DeYoung with 11.

In addition to Pitts, Maxine Moore had 13 points and Kaela Webb added 11.

South Christian was 21-of-29 (72.4 percent) from the line and the Yellowjackets made all nine of their attempts.

In the end what mattered most was the confidence with which South Christian played.

“No one really expected us to be in (the game),” DeBoer said. “Being the underdog, no one really thought we’d win. We didn’t have anything to lose. The pressure really wasn’t on us.

“I never thought they weren’t as good as people thought. I never second guessed our ability. I thought we were always in control.”