Maria Zandi’s 18 points and 10 rebounds keys Stoney Creek’s district semifinal victory over Oxford
Lake Orion — There are a lot of things on the court Maria Zandi does well.
One of them — and perhaps the most important — is getting her Rochester Hills Stoney Creek girls basketball team to the Class A district finals in each of her four years.
Zandi, a senior guard, had a double-double, 18 points and 10 rebounds, as Stoney Creek took Wednesday’s rubber match with Oxford, 45-37, to reach a Class A district title game for the sixth consecutive season.
Stoney Creek (17-5) will face Rochester Adams (15-6), a 59-37 winner over Lake Orion in the other semifinal, in Friday’s 7 p.m. championship game at Lake Orion High School.
Zandi keyed a 12-0 run in the second quarter, scoring eight, as the Cougars took a 23-17 lead and never trailed again.
"We had a little slow start, compared to what we normally do," Zandi said. "We weren’t knocking down our shots, but we got there. And once we started knocking them down, it helped a lot."
"She does (take it to another level in the state tournament)," Stoney Creek coach Brad Crighton said. "If you think last year, her best two games of the season were in districts. So, I think she likes the limelight. She goes after it. She likes the crowds. She’s just a competitor."
Emma Sobczynski added 14 points also for Stoney Creek.
The teams split their non-league matchups. Oxford won 42-31 on Dec. 16, with Stoney Creek taking a 27-25 victory in the rematch on Jan. 8 before meeting in what was billed as one of the most competitive districts in Class A. The tournament’s semifinalists boast a combined 61-24 record.
Jessica Murphy scored 20 points for Oxford (16-5), which won its first league title since 2001.
"We did not want it to end this early," Oxford coach Stephen Emert said. "We just gave up too many — they broke out on us a couple of times and that’s usually what we do on people. It’s tough to win at this level if you don’t make those little 2-footers and 3-footers and we missed a ton of those tonight."
Cherilyn Banas had 10 points for Oxford and her half-court heave at the buzzer banked in to keep the Wildcats within shouting distance at 25-22 to end the first half. Oxford pulled even on a couple of occasions in the third quarter, but Stoney Creek closed it out with its defense and Zandi either dribbling around defenders or at the free-throw line, where she was 8-of-8 on the night.
"I think they have a goal in mind," Crighton said. "They’ve seen the last few years that the seniors have all been in the district finals all four years. So, yeah, they want to keep it going."