Detroit Edison outlasts Pewamo-Westphalia to claim first state title
East Lansing – Youth was served Saturday at the Breslin Center in East Lansing in the Class C girls basketball state finals, as Detroit Edison, a club of mostly freshman and all underclassmen, won its school’s first state title with a 46-44 defeat of a pesky Pewamo-Westphalia squad.
“Just because we’re young, doesn’t mean we don’t have heart,” said sophomore center and team captain Rickea Jackson in the post-game press conference. “A lot of people thought our inexperience would catch up to us this year. We proved them all wrong and now we’re wearing the state-championship medals around our necks. Heart doesn’t have an age.”
Edison (21-5) is only in its sixth year of existence as a program and carried nine freshman, a sophomore and two juniors on its 2017 roster. Freshman guard Shaulana Wagner’s block of a Pewamo-Westphalia shot for the lead from the right baseline with the score 45-44 and the clock ticking under 3.5 seconds and an ensuing Pewamo-Westphalia turnover out of bounds spelled the end of the line for the Pirates. A free throw by fellow freshman Gabrielle Elliott and an offensive rebound by Jackson preserved the victory for Edison.
Jackson scored a game-high 21 points, collected nine rebounds and swatted three blocks. Wagner finished with 12 points and five boards. Elliott, the younger sister of Mr. Basketball candidate Greg Elliott of Detroit East English Village, had 25 points in Thursday’s semifinals versus Flint Hamady. Pewamo-Westphalia (24-3) was also paced by an underclassmen Saturday in the finals with freshman Hannah Spitzley gunning for a team-high 17 points in the loss.
Prior to this weekend, Pewamo-Westphalia hadn’t appeared in the final four in 17 years and hadn’t advanced into the state championship game since 1984. Edison had never been out of districts before this season.
On Saturday, Edison staked out to a 26-19 halftime lead and went in front 38-31 going into the fourth quarter. Pirates’ junior Emily Spitzley (Hannah’s older sister) hit a jumper off the glass from five feet with 1:11 left to bring Pewamo-Westphalia to a single point behind at 45-44.
Pewamo-Westphalia had trouble getting near the basket the rest of the way for a chance to go ahead. Elliott’s knock-away of a Pewamo-Westphalia inbounds pass with 14 seconds remaining was scooped up by Wagner. Edison’s two misses of 1-and-1s at the free throw line set the stage for Pewamo-
Westphalia’s last attempt on offense. Wagner’s block was followed by her knocking the ball off Emily Spitzley’s leg and out of bounds to regain possession and essentially clinch the win.
“They’re (Edison) so long, there were arms everywhere, it was a giant blur,” said Spitzley of her club’s final possession.
Pewamo-Westphalia’s head coach Steve Eklund spoke with pride tinged with frustration after the state finals.
“I’ll be replaying that last five seconds of the game in my head the rest of my life,” he said. “It’s kind of crazy to think the whole season came down to an inbounds play. I have no regrets though, it was an awesome game.”
Monique Brown, Edison’s head coach, started the Pioneers program in 2011. She prepped at Detroit Osborne.
“I couldn’t ask more from a group of young ladies than what these young ladies gave me this year,” she said. “They never quit, they always fought tooth and nail for everything they accomplished.”