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Top-ranked Edison got district test it sought by opting up, still overpowered No. 8 Chandler Park Academy

By: Matthew B. Mowery, March 6, 2019, 8:50 pm

HARPER WOODS — The minute two-time reigning Class C champion Detroit Edison made the decision to opt up a level for this season’s girls basketball postseason, there were a number of coaches and teams in the newly minted Division 3 celebrating their impending absence.

And there were probably just as many D2 teams thinking, ‘Oh, come ON …. SERIOUSLY?’

If you count Harper Woods Chandler Park among the latter, you’re probably not too far off the mark.

The Eagles returned nearly everyone from a team that lost in the Class B quarterfinals to Michigan Center and, not only were the Pioneers jumping up into their division, they were landing in their district.

The Eagles had two options: Run from it — by opting up themselves to D1 — or meet the challenge, head-on.

They chose the latter, and spent every minute they could preparing for Wednesday’s showdown in the districts, packing their schedule with tough teams.

The No. 8-ranked Eagles (16-5) gave top-ranked Edison (21-1) a run for the better part of a half, until the Pioneers pulled away after halftime, to win easily, 79-49.

“We spent all year getting ready. This is easily the best conditioned team I’ve had since I’ve been at Chandler Park. They all ran cross country. They all were committed to be in shape. They all knew the condition they were going to have to be in for this game. It was enough, but it wasn’t for lack of effort,” CPA coach Dave Mann said. “We felt good coming into the game. We felt as prepared as we could possibly be, put it that way. We played a great schedule, the kids had a great season, and despite appearances in the second half, we spent basically all year preparing for this game. And for a half, they were great — even for a few minutes in the third quarter they were great — and then the floodgates opened. The kids had a great season, and a great effort tonight.”

Mann and his staff put a schedule together to prepare the Eagles, who beat Grosse Pointe North, Flint Hamady, Ypsilanti Arbor Prep, Detroit Renaissance, Saline and Detroit Cass Tech. They won the Charter School Conference tournament title game by 27. Their only losses were to reigning Class A champ Saginaw Heritage — in a game that was tied 42-42 headed to the fourth — to Kalamazoo Central and to Arbor Prep and Ann Arbor Huron.

It prepared them to give Edison a fight, and they did for the first 16 minutes.

The Eagles tied it up at 10-10 with three minutes to go in the first quarter, before Edison ran off the final eight points of the frame to lead 18-10. After the Pioneers stretched the lead to 20-10, CPA responded with a 10-0 run to tie it up at 20-20, before Edison counterpunched again, stretching it back out to 10, forcing five turnovers in a two-minute stretch to extend the lead to double digits again.

“That stretch was very important. We knew that CPA is a very good defensive team, and they can create a lot of havoc and turnovers, so we knew that they were trying to speed us up, so us being Detroit Edison, we play our game, we slow ourselves down, so we don’t give them what they want,” said Edison senior Rickea Jackson, who admitted the Pioneers were a bit gassed, trying to match the Eagles’ pace. “Definitely. They have that five-and-five input, and they were tiring us out, because we don’t do five-and-five, so they definitely wore us out.”

CPA pared it back to seven, 37-30 at the half, but the Pioneers weren’t just going to continue to let the Eagles hang around, blowing out of the locker room in the third quarter, and putting the game away.

“At halftime, we just kind of talked about it was where we needed to make a huge stretch so in the fourth quarter we don’t have to worry about it. The third quarter, we amped each other up, played great defense, passed each other the ball, and made big shots,” Jackson said. “We knew that if we kept them close, toward the end of the game, it could go either way. They are a great, great defensive team, and they cause a lot of turnovers, so for us to make our key shots, and create that stretch in the third quarter — we knew we needed to do that.”

The lead reached 20 points, 57-37, on Deshelle Farver’s three-point play with 1:46 left third quarter, then reached 30 points, 73-43, on the first of two free throws by Gabrielle Elliott with 4:06 left in the fourth.

“We got in a little foul trouble first half, playing full-court, so went zone, were able to use our length on them, made them take some really, really long 3-pointers that started the break for us,” said Edison coach Monique Brown, happy her team got tested by the Eagles. “Absolutely. I’m glad. I really like the way we responded. I think they did make us rush in the first quarter, and once we kept our composure, didn’t turn the ball over, sped the ball up, we were fine.”

Elliott finished with 20 points, and Jackson 21, while Damiya Hagemann had 11.

Nykesha Sanders had 14 to lead CPA — including four 3-pointers — while Taylor Walton had 11 and Emaia O’Brien had seven.

The early test was exactly what the Pioneers were looking for when they moved up a division: A challenge.

“We had been talking about it. We definitely didn’t make the decision until a couple of days before the deadline. My superintendent was like ‘Ah, let’s just stick around.’ I was like ‘Nah, I need another challenge. The girls need another challenge.’ It’s actually exciting, because there are four teams that are undefeated (in D2) and I don’t know anything about them. There’s our challenge, right there,” Brown said. “That’s probably the toughest game we’ve had in the districts since we’ve been winning. It was good. It was really good. A lot of energy around school, things like that.”