Cousino holds off Detroit King’s comeback attempt to win first state title
East Lansing – For the second straight day, Warren Cousino got out to a fast start as the Patriots held a 17-8 lead over Detroit King in the Class A state championship game.
Unlike its semifinal win over Hudsonville on Friday where its lead never went below double digits, Cousino watched a lead that grew to as large as 19 in the third quarter, shrink to just five near the midway point of the fourth quarter on Saturday.
But behind the play of junior Kierra Fletcher and senior Mackenzie Anderson, Cousino regrouped late and held off King for a 67-65 win and the first state title in program history.
Cousino coach Mike Lee said that after another strong start from his team, King responded with a run of its own, but the Patriots were able to regroup after a couple of fourth quarter timeouts.
“We came out to a great start again and we played with so much heart and I think we caught them off guard for a little bit,” he said. “When they made their run, they knocked us back a little bit in the third quarter. We had to take a couple of crucial timeouts and gather the troops for one last round.”
Cousino took its largest lead of the game late in the third quarter after a pair of free throws from Anderson that pushed the lead to 48-29, but King then responded in a big way, going on an 18-4 run, behind 14 points from senior Mecaela Kelly to cut the deficit to 52-47 with less than six minutes left to play.
King coach William Winfield credited his team’s improved play late in the third quarter and early in the fourth to its pressure defense and added that with how well the Crusaders defended, he could have gone to that defense earlier in the game.
“We tried to pressure the ball all over the floor and we were pretty much successful near the end,” he said. “But when you’re pressuring like that something’s normally going to go wrong. Sometimes we had a double team and sometimes there were too many players guarding one girl and they were able to slip behind the defense for layups.
“I thought we did a pretty good job. If I had to do it all over again, I think maybe we would have started pressuring them from jump street to really get going.”
Kelly was a force all day for King as she recorded a game-high 34 points in the loss.
Cousino bounced back after a timeout and pushed its lead back to 10 after five quick points from Fletcher, including a 3-point play that made it 57-47 with 4:22 left to play.
Lee said that he took the timeout to give his team an opportunity to regroup and get back to playing like it had earlier in the game.
“The first thing I said was ‘Let’s take a deep breath’, I had to go and calm the coaches down a little bit too,” he said. “They are young ladies and they want to win and there’s no doubt that they wanted to win with five minutes left, we just had to guide them in the right direction.”
Later in the fourth, King managed to cut the deficit back to single digits after Tia Tedford’s five points in less than 30 seconds cut the Cousino lead back to just six, but free throws from Anderson and Fletcher gave the Patriots more breathing room and a 64-55 lead with two minutes left.
Fletcher scored nine of her team-high 27 points in the fourth quarter and found herself in foul trouble for much of the second half, but said that she continued to try staying aggressive and getting to the free throw line to seal the win down the stretch.
“I just tried to be aggressive because we were in the bonus for almost all of the second half,” she said. “So I just wanted to get the ball and get fouls so we can get easy free throws and try to push the lead.
“It was hard, because you know the team’s trying to step up and take the charge, but when they do that, they leave the blocks open, so Mac (Anderson) and Rachel (Hayes) were there all day to make a layup.”
Anderson scored 20 points and freshman Kate McArthur added in 13 points in the win for Cousino.
Kelly and Tedford managed cut the deficit down inside five points with less than 30 seconds left to play, but Cousino held on for its first state title behind an Aubrey Fetzer basket and a free throw from Anderson.