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Cousino’s Kate McArthur passes 1,500 career points as she leads Patriots to win over Utica in first round of MAC tournament

By: Matthew B. Mowery, February 14, 2019, 11:50 pm

WARREN — Everybody had a plan for what they wanted to do in Thursday night’s first-round game in the Macomb Area Conference Red/White tournament.

Some worked OK. Some did not.

The Utica Chieftains had a plan for how they wanted to approach guarding Warren Cousino’s senior star, Kate McArthur, while the Patriots coaching staff had come up with ways to continue to get her open, despite all the defensive attention.

And Cousino athletic director Aaron Setlak had his plan in place, too: Whenever McArthur scored her 12th point of the night, giving her 1,500 for her high school career, he’d wait until the next stoppage between quarters, then present her with a poster and have her receive her due ovation from the crowd.

Only with the game all knotted up at 32-32 after the third quarter, she was in no frame of mind to celebrate anything just yet, far too focused on figuring out a way to win and advance, so she waved off the celebration to stay in the team huddle.

“I knew I passed 1,000 my junior season, but I had no idea it was coming up,” McArthur admitted after the game. “I just wanted to finish the game. … People trying to take pictures, and I was still playing the game.”

Utica (9-7, 7-3 MAC White) took a 38-37 lead with 4:30 left, but McArthur scored the go-ahed bucket and assisted on two more, putting Cousino back in the lead for good, and in a position to close out a 49-41 win.

“Yeah, we were doing all the right things, and … McArthur just made a couple of plays. I told the kids afterwards, the 3 she hit and the pass she made to the backside, really weren’t anything we did (wrong), she just made plays. So they go from from one down to three up, and that clock’s down to 3:30, and then it gets tough,” Utica coach Tom McDonald said. “Great players make great plays, and that’s exactly what she did.”

The Patriots (10-6, 5-5 MAC Red) advance to the second round of the Macomb Area Conference’s Red/White tournament bracket, where they’ll face Red Division champ Grosse Pointe North (15-2, 10-0). The winner of that Tuesday contest will earn a berth in next Saturday’s tournament championship game at Grosse Pointe North.

McArthur came into the game needing just a dozen to pass the milestone — and went ahead and doubled it. After 15 points through three quarters, she scored 10 more in the fourth to finish with 25.

“She had 25 tonight, and I thought we did a heck of a job on her. Lindsey (Michol), who face-guarded her did, I thought, a fantastic job — and she got 25. I said in there, sometimes you just tip your hat and say ‘That was something …’” said McDonald, agreeing that McArthur belongs in the pantheon of greats in recent MAC history. “As a pure scorer, as good as any. … I’ve never seen a kid who can get her shot off with as little room as she can.”

It was her lightning-quick release on her 3-pointer that got Cousino back in front at the start of the fourth, as she flicked it toward the rim having barely cleared the screen to get her some separation from her constant shadow.

“This has been going on for a long time, someone constantly up on me, so I’ve just learned to work on that quickness, and have it be under control when I release the ball,” McArthur said, acknowledging that the defensive plan wasn’t anything she hadn’t dealt with before.

“I think my freshman year, and the beginning of my high school career, it was frustrating, because I’d never experienced anything like that. But throughout the years, coach (Mike) Lee, and coach Amy (Mitchell) now, they’ve made plays to get me open. It hasn’t been as frustrating, because my teammates have really stepped up, so I don’t have to score that many in the game, but if I’m on, they’ll hit me. If I’m not, I know they’ll have my back, and I trust them.

“It’s kind of frustrating having someone constantly in your face all the time, but I’ve learned to just live with it.”

Like any great scorer, McArthur lives with the constant attention of opposing defenses, who routinely clean out the bag of gimmicks in an attempt to slow her down: box-and-one, triangle-and-two, faceguarding, etc.

“It’s gotta be frustrating. … I think she’s just used to it, and expects it every night, and mentally prepares for it, and she handles it. You can’t blame her. She’s working her butt off, and every offensive possession, every eye is on her, all the time. It’s never easy,” Cousino coach Amy Mitchell said. “Tonight, they were very creative, and they were running a box-and-one switch, where every time she passed a screen, they were switching who was face-guarding her. It’s really difficult to (scheme against). We were trying to set triple screens for her, so they couldn’t switch that many times, but they’re well-coached, and they knew what their game-plan was and they executed it.”

McArthur scored the first seven points of the fourth quarter for Cousino, then assisted on buckets by Mackenzie Cook and Angel Smith, before hitting on three of four free throws in the game’s final 50 seconds to close out the win.

“Kate is … she’s a fighter, and she’s going to find her opportunities, and she did tonight,” Mitchell said. “Tonight, she was a difference-maker.”

Cook finished with eight points, while Cayley Ebeling led Utica with 16 points, Rachel Whiteford had 11 and Lina Rea had eight.

McArthur has signed with Central Michigan. While she’s excited to join a Chippewas program that’s been on the rise over the last few seasons, and to room with Midland Dow’s Molly Davis — she’s not that anxious to have her senior season over just yet.

“Yeah, it’s actually hit me, knowing that Senior Night’s coming up, and that it’s coming to an end. Even though I’m excited to go to Central, this is my home, and I want to experience this, and have a good last run at it,” she said. “It hit me really fast. I thought about it at the beginning of the year, but I didn’t really deeply think about it. Me and the other seniors talked about it, and we just want a good last run at it.”

McArthur landed at Central after initially committing to Clemson before a coaching change with the Tigers changed her circumstances.

“Obviously the Clemson thing didn’t work out, and I was upset, but everything happens for a reason, and I think that it did happen for a reason. It’s just the perfect fit for me, and the coaches are amazing,” she said. “It’s closer to home, and I’m really close to my family. The way they play is the way I play, so I think it’ll be a perfect fit.”