Samantha Thomas, defense carry Marian past Divine Child
Dearborn – One thing was missing during Birmingham Marian’s state championship season last year. That was a league title.
In the league opener on Tuesday night against Dearborn Divine Child, the states’ top ranked team put the Catholic Legue Central Division on notice with a convincing 62-32 victory on the road.
“(Defense) always has led to offense,” Marian coach Mary Cicerone said. “These girls really believe in their defense. They work hard. They take pride in it. Tonight, we tried trapping with our presses, and they love being aggressive.
“We couldn’t hold back the horses. They were ready to go today.”
Marian (6-0, 1-0) was aggressive the entire first quarter as the Mustangs raced to a 16-2 lead. Senior guard Jaeda Robinson made a couple of quick 3-pointers for a 6-0 lead and sophomore Samantha Thomas chipped in with a couple of steals and quick baskets.
Thomas led all scorers with a game-high 17 points, seven rebounds, four steals, and three assists.
“Samantha is a rare high school player,” Cicerone said. “She can play any position on the floor. She’s athletic, she doesn’t force shots, and sometimes she over passes the ball because she’s so team oriented.
“When you have players like her, and our whole team is like Sam, it makes my job easy.”
As Marian substituted some of its starters, the Falcons went to work to cut into the lead after a seven-minute scoring drought. Senior Riley Blair began the mini-run with a baseline jumper.
That spark was sustained by a 3-pointer from sophomore Courtney Smithon, and by senior forward Hannah Brefeld who had success inside and had six points in the second quarter that cut into Marian’s lead, 25-15.
That was as close as Cicerone would allow. After the game she said that her team’s weakness is a lack of stamina.
“Our only weakness right now is conditioning. We got into some foul trouble in the second quarter, and we rotated people in. But, we were getting tired,” she said.
“The second half we were fresh again, and we built a run.”
The Mustangs started the second half as they did the first thanks again to a tenacious defense and their transition game. Marian outscored Divine Child (5-2, 0-1) 20-6 thanks to a third quarter outburst by senior Brittany Gray (eight points) and fellow senior Kara Holinski (10 points).
“It really helps our offense a lot. We’re able to speed the game up, force turnovers, and run the floor. A couple of early stops really helped build our confidence and we carried that through the game,” sophomore Samantha Thomas said.
Marian will have a target on its back all season since it is the defending state champion. There aren’t any comparisons being made between last year’s squad and this year’s team. According to Thomas, they’re motivated by only each other.
“We always want to get into the gym. We had to convince our coaches to hold practice on New Year’s Day. We’re that motivated,” Thomas said.
“We at least want to get a shoot around in or go over a couple of things whenever we can. We focus on our system, and our fundamentals. When we play well, it can lead to large wins.”
So large, in fact, that Marian has defeated its opponents by more than 20 points a game.