Marian solves King’s fast-pace offense, dominates the Crusaders in a 57-37 victory in a Class A semifinal
East Lansing – When Birmingham Marian faced Detroit King on Feb. 26, the Mustangs held on for a 50-49 victory, but when the two teams met again in the Class A semifinals, the outcome wasn’t as nearly as close.
Marian coach Mary Cicerone switched up defenses this time and King didn’t handle it well. The Mustangs cruised to a 57-37 victory on Friday at the Breslin Center.
Marian (25-1), ranked No. 1 all season, will go for its second consecutive title on Saturday against DeWitt (25-1) at noon. Should Marian win it would be the first time the program would win back-to-back titles.
Cicerone said that she had hoped that her team’s defense would fluster King. Cicerone wanted her team to prevent King from getting to the basket as easily as it did in the previous matchup.
“That was the plan,” she said. “We were hoping that was going to happen. We didn’t want them to get too comfortable in their man(-to-man) sets. The last time we played them, we were pretty confident in our man defense, but they started feeling too comfortable getting to the basket.”
Marian entered the second quarter holding an 11-9 lead, but a 9-2 run, capped off by a Kara Holinski 3-pointer and a basket from Elizabeth Grobbel, gave the Mustangs a more comfortable 20-11 lead.
A Leah Mathis basket cut the deficit to 20-13 before Marian scored six out of the final eight points of the quarter, including baskets from Samantha Thomas and Grobbel, to give the Mustangs a 26-15 halftime lead.
Thomas said that the biggest difference for her and her teammates this time against King was their confidence. They were prepared for the style of play King offered.
“I think today, we were ready for them and we actually played with confidence,” she said. “Last game, we were nervous, we had never played them before and we knew they were really good. So today, we were ready, we drilled in practice a lot for what we were going to do and we came out and played the best we could.”
Jaeda Robinson registered 15 points and six rebounds to lead the way for Marian. Brittany Gray added in 14 and Thomas chipped in with 12 points and eight rebounds for the Mustangs.
Marian opened up the second half with a pair of quick scores as its lead swelled to 15. But King responded with five straight points from senior Janae Williams to get the Crusaders closer.
“When we played them the first time, maybe they weren’t accustomed to the pressures we were using,” said King coach William Winfield. “And apparently in this game, there were some adjustments. One thing, we were playing on a much bigger floor and secondly I have some young kids who haven’t played on the big stage before and I think that more or less benefited them because they have experience playing deep in the playoffs.”
Williams finished with 18 points for King and Malaysia McHenry added 10.
Marian would have an answer of its own as the Mustangs got a 3-point play from Thomas, followed by a Robinson basket gave Marian a 40-25 lead after three quarters.
Early on in the playoffs, Cicerone said that her team was looking to get its “mojo” back on offense, and felt that it got it back in the first half of its quarterfinal game, but again lost it in the second half, but had it all game on Friday afternoon.
“Not until the first half of the Waterford (Kettering) game,” she said. “But we lost it fast in that second half, we stopped making shots and you could see their whole game just drop. That’s our biggest weakness, we get down on ourselves too quickly. It’s normal to miss a few shots, but even our defense falters when our offense isn’t clicking.”