Marian wins Catholic League title, now faces unbeaten King in Operation Friendship
Detroit – Last year’s Catholic League championship game haunted Birmingham Marian coach Mary Cicerone and her squad for 365 days.
The last-second loss to Farmington Hills Mercy in the title game was one of the few blemishes on the Mustangs’ state championship season. And they didn’t want that feeling again.
Bailey Thomas was a big part of last season’s team. Her 17 points led Marian to a 63-39 victory over Dearborn Divine Child in the A-B Division championship game at Calihan Hall on Sunday.
“I’m so proud of this team,” Bailey said. “We put in the work in the summer, and we came in to practice when it wasn’t scheduled. We wanted to remember the feeling, and we don’t want to feel that way again. Last year’s game really motivates us still.”
For top-ranked Marian (18-1), it’s the program’s 14th league title.
Marian never trailed but the game was close through most of the first half.
Divine Child (13-6) trailed 12-9 at the end of the first quarter before the Mustangs kicked their game into high gear.
Midway through the second quarter Marian went on a 10-0 run thanks in part to senior Jaeda Robinson (eight points) who sparked the team with two quick baskets. Then senior Kara Holinski (13 points) made a 3-pointer for a 22-13 lead.
Cicerone said the difference between two quarters was that the team stopped standing around.
“We were just standing around in the first quarter, but then we really started to get our act together and moved the ball around,” she said. “We got after it a little better in the second half, and that was difference.”
Thomas added that her squad wanted to show the coaches they belonged on this stage, and they didn’t disappoint.
“We got yelled at pretty bad at the half,” she said. “And we wanted to show our coaching staff that we belonged here. We started to put pressure on the ball, and we were better off the ball.”
Thomas scored seven of Marian’s 23 points in the third quarter and Holinski had 10 in the second half.
Marian was also on its game defensively in the last 16 minutes as it held Divine Child to just 18 points.
Cicerone was able to rest her starters and substituted freely with 4:13 left.
Senior guard Riley Blair scored 12 points and senior Hailey Case had 11 for Divine Child.
Divine Child coach Mary Laney said that even though her team lost there are still things they can take to make themselves better for a state championship run.
“You don’t see this kind of pressure enough,” she said. “Their pressure is stifling. Their length and their defensive pressure are phenomenal. It will make us a better team as we hope to make a run in the state tournament.”
Marian will prepare for its chance to repeat as state champions as it faces Detroit King (18-0) in Operation Friendship on Thursday at Marian at 7 p.m.
Cicerone believes her team is ready for the pressure.
“You expect (the players) to grow,” she said. “They were all here last year, and they’re all back. They should be better or else I’m not doing my job. All the pressure is on us, and we’ll take it.”