G.R. Catholic Central wins 12th straight district title
Grand Rapids – The last thing the Grand Rapids Catholic Central girls basketball team takes for granted is extending the streak.
Despite a new cast of characters, the host Cougars collected their 12th straight Class B district title on Friday by fending off Grand Rapids Forest Hills Eastern, 52-49.
The streak includes district crowns under three different coaches and includes eliminating the Hawks for a third straight season. This season’s Catholic Central club includes just one senior and five junior starters who tied for an OK Gold Division title on the last night of the regular season with a win over co-champ Grand Rapids South Christian.
Coach Trevor Hinshaw, who has been around for four of the titles, said the streak includes at least one common denominator.
"It means we’ve had a lot of good players," he said. "Obviously (former coaches) Colleen (Lamoreaux-Tate) and Bob (Schichtel) did a good job with expectations and I give this team a lot of credit. They gave their all. It was a tough battle."
C.C. (20-2) advances to Tuesday’s regional semifinal against Sparta (6-14) at Fremont at 5:30 p.m.
The Cougars never trailed after snapping a 10-10 first quarter tie, but had to survive numerous tense moments. C.C. led by as much as 23-12 with less than two minutes left in the first half, but the Hawks (15-7), who won nine of 10 non-conference games, cut the lead to 39-38 with 5:46 remaining. But three different Cougars scored in the next two minutes for a 47-39 lead with less than a minute left.
C.C. guard Jo-Ann Torres said she has mixed feelings about being the only senior on a team where the chemistry has only increased as the season wore on.
"It’s tough, but kind of easy, too," she said. "If I tell something to the seniors they always back me up. I’ve played against a lot of them (in AAU) and we’re like a family. We’ve been working hard and that’s how we get the wins. We work hard."
Junior forward Sophia Karasinski led the Cougars with 22 points including a handful of key baskets. Senior forward Kyra Bussell added 10 points.
"She wants the ball in those situations," Hinshaw said of Karasinski. "She does a nice job of playing inside and outside ball and she can hit the three."
Hinshaw said he isn’t particularly surprised that a team which lacks a senior starter can win 20 games and share a league title.
"It starts with the senior leadership," he said of Torres. "She’s on the floor (at key times) and the juniors, sophomore and freshman have played a ton of basketball."
The often physical game included the teams combining for 40 fouls and 43 free throw attempts, including the Cougars hitting 9 of 15 second half shots.
"We did a great job of stepping up the line," Hinshaw said. "It probably wasn’t our greatest night of putting the ball in the hole, but that was probably the difference."
The Hawks got 22 points from Kaleese Jeffries.
Eastern coach Troy Hammond said experience and high expectations were the difference. The Hawks have never won a district or league title and have now lost 20 consecutive games to the Cougars.
"We’ve only been around for 11 years and we have zero championships of any sort," he said. "But this group is very talented. Something about it is different. It’s a certain confidence. They just made more plays than we did. The difference is we’ve been here and lost and they’ve won these games. We just came up short."