• Michigan

Julia Ayrault, Grosse Pointe North face a tall task when the Norsemen play Dakota in a Class A regional semifinal on Tuesday

By: Tom Markowski, March 6, 2018, 1:19 pm

Grosse Pointe – It’s been eight years since Grosse Pointe North won a regional semifinal and, if any conclusion can be reached by what took place during the regular season, it’ll take a supreme effort to end that streak.

Unranked North (17-5) will play No. 8 Macomb Dakota (19-3) in a Class A regional semifinal on Tuesday at New Baltimore Anchor Bay at 6 p.m.

North won a regional title in 2010 before losing to Detroit Renaissance in a quarterfinal.

Last season North lost to Birmingham Marian, 34-31, in a regional semifinal.

The Norsemen started the season 0-2 in the Macomb Area Conference Red Division then reeled off eight consecutive victories within the division to tie Dakota for the title at 8-2.

The teams split their first two games and Dakota defeated North, 54-42, in the MAC tournament championship game on Feb. 17.

“They were definitely the better team in that game,” North coach Gary Bennett said. “We didn’t shoot well, and they were better. When we beat them (66-63), they shot the ball well from the perimeter but we played really well. They have two big kids (6-2 Taylor Williams, 6-1 Cameron Grant) and they shoot the ball well. (Kara) Bieniewicz really shoots it well.

“We just don’t match up well against them.”

Dakota lost in a quarterfinal last season and the Cougars were expected to be a contender for a state title. State Champs ranked Dakota No. 10 in the preseason. North was not ranked in the preseason.

Don’t count North out of this one. Bennett is one of the top coaches in the state and having three days to prepare for Dakota is plenty of time for him to devise a plan.

The player that makes North go is 6-1 junior Julia Ayrault. She’s averaging 18.6 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, 4.8 steals and 4.5 blocks. Ayrault plays a number of positions and will likely play the small forward or the shooting guard in college. Ayrault committed to Michigan State.

“She’s way more of a perimeter player than she is inside,” Bennett said. “She’s a really good passer and she’s a really good passer in transition. She’s got a good pull-up jumper because she jumps so well and she can take the ball to the basket. She’s really uplifted the other players’ game throughout the season.

“We got better as the season went along. People started to contribute. It just wasn’t one player.  Overall, collectively, they got better.”