D3 FINALS: All the past struggles, sacrifices worth it, as Grass Lake finally gets its ring, beating Kent City
EAST LANSING — All the tears of frustration the past few seasons, with potential runs cut short — worth it.
All the precautions — worth it.
All the hard scheduling, all the sacrifices, all the effort finally paid off for Grass Lake, as the Warriors held off an equally star-studded Kent City squad, 52-50, in Saturday’s Division 3 title contest to win their first state championship.
“Truly, this is just the best thing that any basketball player could imagine happening to them. To be able to go and say you won a state championship is truly such a blessing,” junior Lexus Bargesser said.
It’s a Grass Lake team that’s been poised for this for a few years, but had just had trouble getting going in the postseason, going out in districts last year, regionals the two years before that.
“Yeah, definitely (worth it). It’s definitely motivated us throughout the whole season. We knew we were good. We were pretty much the same team, but this year, we’re really mature … and that really helped us strive for greatness and get us here,” senior Abrie Cabana said. “It’s amazing. We’ve dreamed about this since we were little kids. It’s crazy. Like ‘Breslin Bound,’ everybody says that, but we actually got here, and made it, and are state champs now. Crazy. … I’d rather be ending it like this than bawling my eyes out.”
Once they got a run going, they were hard to stop.
The Warriors (20-1) won their first regional title since 1979-80 with a victory over perennial power Ypsilanti Arbor Prep, then got their first quarterfinal win in three tries, beating Brooklyn Columbia Central, 49-36.
After getting past semifinals on a COVID forfeit win over Hemlock, the Warriors had to get past previously unbeaten Kent City (21-1) in the finals.
The Eagles led 18-14 after one quarter, but a 16-6 advantage for Grass Lake in the second quarter gave the Warriors a 30-24 lead at the half, a margin that ballooned to 12 points in the third quarter.
Kent City used an 8-0 run to cut it back to a two-possession game, down just 36-32 with 2:19 left in the third, then went into the fourth down just six, 40-34. Grass Lake stretched it to 10 again with a pair of Bargesser layups, but back-to-back 3s by Kent City’s Kenzie Bowers and Jenna Harrison got it down to four, and Madelyn Geers’ layup with 1:33 left cut it to just two, 48-46.
Bargesser was 4-for-4 from the free-throw line over the final 35 seconds to offset layups by Kenzie Bowers with 24 seconds left and by Harrison at the buzzer.
Harrison had 16 points to lead Kent City, while Kenzie Bowers had 13 and five assists. Bargesser led Grass Lake with 16 points, 10 rebounds and five steals, Gabrielle Lutchka had 14 points and five assists, and Cabana 10 points.