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Cousino outlasts Marian in OT thriller to head back to Class A quarterfinals

By: Jeff Dullack, March 10, 2017, 2:05 pm

Bloomfield Hills – Warren Cousino was well aware that defending its Class A state championship wouldn’t be easy.

On Thursday night, the Patriots faced what might have been their biggest challenge yet.

Facing Birmingham Marian, who won the first meeting between the two teams in the season opener, Cousino watched its seven point fourth quarter lead disappear as the Marian outscored the Patriots 13-6 in the fourth quarter to force overtime.

But after Marian took a narrow lead in the extra session, Cousino’s defense held the Mustangs scoreless for the final minute as a Mackenzie Cook basket would give the Patriots the lead back as they would hang on for a 41-39 victory at Birmingham Marian.

Cousino (23-2), ranked No. 2, now advances to the Class A quarterfinals where it will face Farmington Hills Mercy on Tuesday at Southfield for the Arts and Technology at 7 p.m.

“A game like today can only make us better,” Cousino coach Mike Lee said. “The pressure that these young ladies have been under every single night – no matter if it was regular season, postseason – we’re getting everybody’s best effort and there’s a big target on their back and I don’t think it’s going to be any different. We have a one-in-eight shot at a state championship and we’re going to give our best effort and I’m sure we’re going to see everybody else’s.”

With the game in overtime after an Uche Ike basket that tied the game at 35-35 for Marian, the Mustangs would take their first lead since the opening moments of the first quarter as a Hannah Redoute basket with 2:10 left gave Marian a 37-36 lead.

Cousino would retake the lead moments later on a Kiera Fletcher jumper. Marian responded with one minute left to play as Ike put the Mustangs on top, 39-38.

Marian head coach Mary Cicerone credited her team’s resolve for overcoming deficits at several points to force overtime. She also said that she felt Marian’s defense was a key factor all game, specifically to how well they defended Fletcher, who is a Miss Basketball Finalist.

“They got knocked down there at halftime, but all it takes is a little spark, somebody do something really well, take a charge and we got a little life,” she said. “We scared the pants off of them, but too many opportunities were blown, layups and free throws. But my kids played a great defensive game, Maria Kaschalk probably played Kiera Fletcher tougher than anybody has all year.”

Ike and Lauren Montalbano each contributed 10 points in the loss for Marian (18-6).

After Cook would give the Patriots the lead back with 45 seconds left, Cousino would force a Marian turnover to take possession back with 25 seconds left and a last second 3-point attempt for the Mustangs wouldn’t fall as Cousino punched its ticket to the Class A quarterfinal for a second straight year.

Fletcher, who led the way for the Patriots with 16 points and a career-high 19 rebounds, said that while Thursday wasn’t the best game for herself or her teammates from an offensive standpoint, she felt that the Cousino defensive effort collectively, was its best of the season.

“Defense wins championships,” she said. “I knew that they were going to be a great defensive team, so when I wasn’t getting the shots that I wanted up, I just made sure that I excelled on defense and I think that’s what won us the game. I think all of us played our best defensive game and I think that’s what got us the regional championship.”

Cook finished with 13 points to go with Fletcher’s 16, while Kate McArthur, chipped in with seven in the win for Cousino.

Lee said that with his team one win away from another trip to the Breslin Center, there is still work that needs to be done Cousino is going to win its second straight title.

“We’ll enjoy this one because it was well deserved, but we’re 32 minutes away from the Breslin and we have a one-in-eight chance at a state championship so we’ve got to get to work and clean some things up,” he said. “I couldn’t be happier with this team, 23 wins this year, I think that’s what we finished with last year, I couldn’t say enough about them.”