Foul-plagued No. 4 Wayne Memorial uses depth to beat short-handed No. 9 Hartland in KLAA semifinals
WAYNE — Would you swap a Miss Basketball candidate for two top-four scorers and a freshman-off-the-junior-varsity to be named later?
If you’re Wayne Memorial, you’d make it in a pinch, knowing that you’ve got more in the tank, even without the services of your top player.
In the end, it was that depth for the No. 4-ranked Zebras that paid off, as they rolled past No. 9 Hartland, 48-31, to make it to next week’s Association championship game, where they’ll defend last year’s crown.
“We’re just looking forward to putting more banners up. There’s nothing that can stand in our way. If we just keep pushing, keep playing hard, we’ll get everything we want,” said Makailah Griggs-Zeigler, who came off the bench to score a team-high 12 points for the Zebras.
“We were just up — there was no backing down — we were just up from the start. We watched film, and we knew that if we pressured them, they were going to cough it up, or turn it over. So we just gave them that real hard pressure that we knew they couldn’t handle, so we were basically going to make this game easy.”
No. 10 Brighton (18-1) beat Dearborn, 59-16, in Tuesday’s other semifinal, and will host the Zebras (17-2) for the Association title on Tuesday, Feb. 26. Hartland (15-3) will face Dearborn in the third-place game on Tuesday.
Nobody made that aforementioned trade-off before Tuesday night’s Kensington Lakes Activities Association playoff semifinal, but they might as well have.
No. 9-ranked Hartland was without two starters — junior point guard Nikki Dompierre (ankle) and freshman wing Amanda Roach (illness) — for the entirety of the contest. No. 4 Wayne Memorial had to deal with Illinois-bound Miss Basketball candidate Jeanae Terry spending the entirety of the night mired in deep foul trouble, finishing with six points, in severely curtailed minutes.
“Things happen, and for whatever reason, they happened to us tonight, but I trust the other 10 kids to step up and fill that void — losing Terry, who’s averaging close to a triple-double, for a chunk of the game, it’s tough for us. But I had some young kids play well for us tonight,” said Wayne coach Jarvis Mitchell, who sent Terry back in with three fouls to hold for the final shot of the first quarter, only to have her pick up her fourth on a charge with 28 seconds left.
“My mistake was, I put her in, in the last waning seconds, because I didn’t think she would get a charge. We were holding for the last shot. So I thought, worst-case scenario, we’ll get a shot off, but I have my best player with the basketball. Coaching 101. What the heck do I know? I got her her fourth foul. Good job, coach.”
Terry played very little until the fourth quarter, when the Zebras were comfortably ahead.
“With her being down, we just all had to come together and pull this game together. Terry’s one of our best point guards on our team, so they were looking to get her out, because they didn’t know what we were coming with,” Griggs-Zeigler said. “So them taking her out wasn’t a disadvantage for our team.”
Wayne led 15-5 after the first quarter, and 27-14 after a first half that featured 26 total fouls and 29 free throws. Hartland outscored Wayne 8-7 in the third quarter, but still trailed 34-22 headed to the fourth, before cutting the Zebras’ lead to just eight, 34-26, three minutes into the final frame.
“When we were down by by however many at halftime, my teammates and I wanted to come out and show people that we can come back and win,” said Whitney Sollom, who led Hartland with 15 points and 12 rebounds. “It … just didn’t happen.”
The Zebras went on a 14-2 run after letting the lead slip into single digits, essentially putting the game out of reach.
“They are the toughest team on the other side. Last year, they had some tough players, and this year, they’ve got some tough players, but we just weren’t going to let that get in our way,” Griggs-Zeigler said. “The confidence was really high, and we stuck to the script and just came out tough. They’re a really good team, but we just stayed disciplined, and stayed together.”
The matchup between the two squads has become a yearly rite. Wayne beat Hartland in the KLAA tournament semifinals last year, then again in the MHSAA Class A quarterfinals. The Eagles beat Wayne to win the title in 2017.
“Playing against Hartland, man, Don is such a great coach. He is just — I don’t care how many kids he has, he works to what he has, and he gives you his best shot, and those kids are so disciplined. I absolutely hate playing against Hartland, because you don’t know what to scout for. Because every day — he’s a chameleon guy — you’re going to get something new, and just when I think he’s going to set a zone, he’s going to face-guard. Just when I think he’s going to face-guard, he’s going to get into a 1-1-1-1-1,” Jarvis joked. “It’s like, c’mon man. Don, if you’re listening, just retire. I don’t want to play you anymore.”
Both teams lost key players from last year’s quarterfinal match-up, but the Zebras have seemed to slip under the radar, many thinking they wouldn’t be the same without Miss Basketball runner-up Cam Clegg.
“We’re a better basketball team. With Clegg, because she was such a dominant basketball player, and is so talented, when she goes, if she’s not on, then we crumble, because the whole thing was built around her. With Jeanae, she doesn’t have to score. She’s a facilitator,” Jarvis said. “I still have six Division I kids on this team.”
In a way, dealing with the absence of Terry Tuesday night was much like the adjustment the Zebras have had to make in the absence of Clegg this year — with much the same positive results.
“Cam was a really good player, really good teammate, so losing her hurt. She’s on to better things at Clemson, so we’re happy about it, but the grind don’t stop,” Griggs-Zeigler said. “We just keep playing hard. With us losing Cam, it wasn’t like ‘Aw, we’re down,’ because we all just work hard. Cam was a big part of our team, but our team — we’re still good, you know?”