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Gladiators get for measuring-stick game they wanted against DEPSA, but Pioneers pull away to win handily, 75-42

By: Matthew B. Mowery, December 9, 2018, 12:00 am

OKEMOS — If you know you can’t be the best until you beat the best — sometimes you just need to check how far away you are from actually being able to do that.

For a Fowlerville team that had taken small steps toward becoming a program to be reckoned with over the last few seasons, Saturday’s Start to March tournament game against two-time reigning Class C champion Detroit Edison was just that: a measuring stick to see how far the Gladiators still have to go.

And coach Billy Selvia certainly wasn’t reluctant have his squad find that out. In fact, he asked for it.

“I requested to play them. I wanted to get our team better, get our team ready. We’re not going to face anybody in our conference, not even in districts, anybody of that level,” said Selvia, whose team captured its first district title since 2002 (and just third ever) last March. “This is what we want to do. We got some younger kids a chance to play. I started a freshman for us. … I’m looking forward to see what happens at practice on Monday, but I think we’re going to be ready for what comes our way next.”

The measuring stick still shows a ways to go — Edison outscored Fowlerville 22-12 in the second quarter and 22-10 in the third, steadily pulling away for a decisive 75-42 win — but the Gladiators certainly weren’t intimidated.

For DEPSA coach Monique Brown, the request was flattering.

“It’s funny, because a couple of years ago, no one would play us. ‘Edison? A charter school? No, we don’t want to play.’ For somebody to say that, that is the utmost respect,” Brown said, noting that she’s happy anybody wants to play at this point, given how hard it is to fill out a schedule as an independent, especially once you’ve gotten to the level the Pioneers have attained. “Especially being independent, it’s tough. I have to have four or five out-of-state games. We did that last year. The state doesn’t really recognize those out-of-state teams, but I have to play that kind of competition.”

The Gladiators (1-1) stuck with the Pioneers (1-0) for a quarter, trailing just 15-11, as Elie Smith (Cleveland State) had eight first-quarter points. She finished with 12 points, earning team MVP honors, while teammate Jackie Jarvis had 12 points, as well.

But holding off the Pioneers was kind of like trying to push an avalanche back uphill.

“Definitely. They’re the No. 1 team in the state for a reason,” Selvia said. “We didn’t give up. We didn’t give up at any point in time. I put some younger kids out there, that handled themselves well. Bottom line is we got beat by a better team. If we can put up 45-50 against this team, we’re going to do well against others.”

The Pioneers scored 29 points on the break or off pressure, using their defense to create quick offense.

Even when they couldn’t do that, though, they still managed to score almost at will against Fowlerville’s zone, hitting seven 3-pointers in the game. Five of those were by Rickea Jackson, who finished with 19 points to earn team MVP honors. Gabrielle Elliott had 19 as well, wile Damiya Hageman had 12 for DEPSA.

“They do an outstanding job of sharing the ball — sometimes it’s even a little over-passing. They know our focus is the defensive end, and try to play it without fouling. That’s kind of how we get going,” Brown said. “We have some really good point guards, with a really high IQ, and they can find the mismatch, find what’s open, and what we get. Sometimes, I can just sit back, and let them call that.”

 

DEPSA Black 51, Holt 48

If using an opponent as a measuring stick isn’t the highest form of flattery, then imitation certainly is, as the old adage goes.

With a big freshman class, the Pioneers decided to create a “Black” squad to play a varsity schedule, similar to what longtime coach Dave Mann does at Harper Woods Chandler Park Academy.

It gives those freshmen varsity experience, and allows them to play heavy minutes, something they wouldn’t do were they on the regular varsity squad.

“It’s a little tough,” Brown said of the playing time crunch, admitting she stole the idea from Mann. “It’s just about getting them playing time, and getting them experience, but they are playing a varsity schedule. … They’re only playing about 12 games. They’ll be playing the rest of the games, and then they’ll move up for states. It’s about getting some reps and getting some playing time.”

Freshman phenom Ruby Whitehorn is one of the ninth-graders on the Black squad this season, and she scored a game-high 20 points in a 51-48 win over Class A Holt. A junior dropped to the Black team because she’d been ill recently, allowing her to get her legs back, Kendall Jennings had 17, while Rakiyah Beal had 11.

Ella Barker had 15 points to lead Holt.