D1 SEMIS: Experience helps Southfield A&T hold off furious Muskegon comeback, move on to title game
GRAND RAPIDS — It was a different backdrop, but the feel of the game was eerily similar to Southfield A&T”s last trip to the semifinals.
Only in reverse.
Rather than being the team that fell behind big early, this time the Warriors jumped out to a big lead, only to have Muskegon come roaring back. This time, the Warriors were the chasee, rather than the chaser.
Having been in that situation helped the No. 1-ranked Warriors hold on for a narrow, 54-50 win, advancing them to the championship game for the first time as a program.
In Saturday’s Division 1 championship game, Southfield A&T (24-1) take on reigning Class A champion Saginaw Heritage (24-2), the only team to beat them this season. The game is slated for 12:15 p.m. at Calvin College’s Van Noord Arena.
Southfield A&T jumped out to a 9-0 lead, and led 13-2 at the end of the first quarter, as the Big Reds (21-5) missed their first 18 shots of the game, and shot just 5.6 percent in the opening frame. That A&T lead would reach 21 points, at 29-8, with 1:37 left in the first half.
It almost wasn’t enough.
Muskegon outscored A&T by a 37-25 margin in the second half, getting the deficit down to single digits three minutes into the second half, before A&T pushed it back to 13 points, 44-31, by the end of the third.
The Big Reds started the fourth quarter on an 11-2 run to cut it down to four points, 46-42, with 3:59 left, but they wouldn’t get it closer until a 3-pointer by Jakayla Anderson with 2:42 left, coupled with a 3 by De’shonna Day with 53 seconds remaining cut it to two, 52-50.
Muskegon had a chance to tie it or take the lead with 16 seconds left, but the Warriors forced a travel in the lane, and Soleil Barnes hit two free throws with six seconds left to seal it.
Barnes and Cheyenne McEvans had 12 points each, while Alexis Johnson had a double-double of 18 points and 12 rebounds.
Miss Basketball finalist Alyza Winston had 26 points for Muskegon in the loss.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a preliminary version of the final story. Click back later for the final version, which will include details and quotes.]