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Mo being Mo: Miss Basketball candidate Joiner leads reigning Class A champ Heritage past Hartland, 55-35

By: Matthew B. Mowery, December 11, 2018, 10:30 pm

HARTLAND — If you’re a Miss Basketball candidate who has already scored her requisite boatload of points, you’re probably allowed to relax on defense in the final 10 seconds of a suddenly-lopsided game.

But relaxing just isn’t in some people.

People like Saginaw Heritage’s Mo Joiner, who fouled out of a 20-point game against Hartland with 5.5 seconds left, trying to block a shot.

“No. No. Absolutely not. She’s not going to do that (relax). She wanted the rebound, and she wanted to contest the shot. That’s Mo,” Heritage coach Vonnie DeLong said with a chuckle. “That is her. That’s totally her, actually.”

The Michigan State-bound Joiner scored 19 points before exiting Tuesday’s game, having helped the reigning Class A champion Hawks (3-0) outscore the Eagles (2-1) by an 11-2 margin down the stretch to win, 55-35.

Her scoring and floor leadership are certainly big reasons why the Hawks are the odds-on favorites to repeat, at least in the early going. But it’s that unrelenting play-to-the-whistle attitude that might give her a puncher’s chance of unseating the odds-on Miss Basketball favorite, Mississippi State-bound Rickea Jackson of Detroit Edison.

Joiner scored five points in every quarter but the second … when she scored four. She added 10 rebounds for her second double-double in three games. 

Similarly, she’s been the one consistent source of offense for the Hawks in the first few games, as they work some new people into the rotation.

“Her whole career. Very consistent. And when we need a bucket, she usually comes through with a bucket,” DeLong said. “I’ll miss her when she’s gone, but I’m going to enjoy it while I still have it.”

Shine Strickland-Gills (Central Michigan) added 13 points for the Hawks, while Mallory McCartney (Ferris State) had nine.

It may have looked like the offense was executing well against the Eagles on Tuesday, but not to a coach’s eye.

“I don’t know about that. That was a big optical illusion. Mo hasn’t missed a beat. How’s that? And Shine played better tonight than she did the other day,” DeLong said. “We’re working in some new kids that haven’t had varsity experience, a few of them, and that’s the hard part. Some of that have … we’re just not there yet. And that’s OK. It’s early. I tell them ‘We’re OK. Don’t worry about it. We don’t need to beat people by 25. We just need to win the game.’”

That wasn’t as easy as it looked in the early going Tuesday, when Heritage jumped out to a 7-0 lead, and threatened to blow it open early, leading 18-7 after one quarter. From the start of the second quarter through the midpoint of the fourth, the Eagles matched the Hawks point-for-point, outscoring Heritage 30-26 before that final 8-0 run to close the game out.

Madi Moyer, who had seven of her team-high 13 points for Hartand in the fourth quarter, hit a putback with 4:19 left, making it 48-35, and forcing a Heritage timeout.

“They kept hanging around, and we kept doing really silly things,” DeLong said. “But they hang around. And they’re good. You can’t let good teams hang around. You just can’t. So, we got lucky.”

Leah Lappan had five points for Hartland, while Gracey Metz had four.