Young Wolves keep it close vs. Ypsi Arbor Prep, but Petticord is too much, dropping 33 in her debut
CLARKSTON — As debuts go, not too shabby. Not bad at all.
And you can take that any number of ways, depending on who you are, and what your affiliation might be.
The Clarkston Wolves had a pair of freshmen — Izzey Hadley and Madison Skorupski — and sophomore Morgan Hunter who played significant time off the bench in their varsity deubts, combining for 21 points in Thursday’s season-opener, showing flashes of why the coaching staff has high hopes for all three.
John Weyer, the longtime AAU coach with PR1DE Basketball, made his high school coaching debut, and had the Wolves hustling and scrapping and flying around, all the way to the end against statewide powerhouse Ypsilanti Arbor Prep, last year’s Class C runner-up.
Afterward, he got his first postgame interview out of the way, too.
But the star of this particular debutante ball was Mya Petticord, the much ballyhooed freshman, who lit up the scoreboard for 33 points in her first varsity action, scoring more than half her team’s points in a 60-52 win.
“She’s decent, right? I mean, we were keyed on her the whole time. I wish we could’ve stopped her earlier in the half,” Weyer said with a chuckle. “The second half, when Kashyra Jackson came back out, and was dominant for them, we didn’t really have an answer for her, and I saw the separation start happening, once she started getting her buckets.”
Sometimes, when a player gets as much ink as Petticord has this early, they have a hard time living up to the hype. In this case, the slight, 5-foot-8 point guard, who holds seven Division I offers, lived up to the billing, and more.
“Yeah. She’s the real deal. She puts in the time and work to make sure she’s ready. She’s a great kid,” Arbor Prep coach Scott Stine said. “Four years — four more years of that. That puts a smile on the coach’s face.”
Having the senior Jackson, who is signed to play at University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown, on the floor in the second half did help settle down the Gators some.
For all their final four appearances — Class C champs in 2016, runners-up in 2017 (B) and 2018 (C) — the Gators are very much young and inexperienced team this year, as well. Jackson represents almost all of the team’s returning experience on the floor, with fellow senior Mahri Petree (Bradley commit) shelved by a knee injury (tendinitis and meniscus) to start the season.
“Very young. … Four freshmen, all played heavy minutes tonight, and all of them contributed to the win. We also have got two sophomores on varsity that are first-year varsity players. Every day, we’re trying to get better. Our goal is March. We want to make sure we’re ready,” Stine said, noting that Petree has returned to practice in the last week, and is ramping up slowly, maybe looking at a Dec. 15 return against Detroit Renaissance.
“We want her ready for March. It’s a little bit of stress on the coach, but the blessing is these young kids are all being put in situations, and they’re all going to grow from it, and when Mahri comes back, she’ll take that burden off of them. But they’re going to be ready to step up when needed.”
Petticord stepped up almost immediately, hitting a 3-pointer in the game’s first minute to get her own bearings, then rolling on from there.
“I think I did well. It was a fun experience, but we’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ve got some adjustments, and more games to play,” said the freshman, who already has offers from Eastern, Cincinnati, Michigan, Michigan State, Marquette, Illinois, Ohio State. “I wanted to slow it down a little bit, because I was a little nervous at first. But when I scored my first bucket, I started to calm down more, calm the team down, start leading.”
She had seven points by the end of the first quarter, and 17 by halftime, adding eight more in the third quarter for 25, then the final four of her eight fourth-quarter points from the free-throw line in the game’s final 25.5 seconds, after the Wolves had cut it to three points yet again.
Perhaps the most veteran move was when Petticord put a hard foul on Clarkston sophomore Olivia Toderan, then was the first to clap when Toderan got up off the floor, making sure she went over and shook hands and patted her on the back.
“She’s a sportsmanship-type kid. She’s going to try to win the game, but she’s also going to do it the right way,” Stine said. “She’s a great kid. She’s the one that will always have the joke for the team. She’s the one that when things are a little bit down, she’ll get the team up.”
Arbor Prep started the second half on a 9-2 run to open up a margin, then stretched an 11-0 run across the end of the third and start of the fourth to open it back up, after the Wolves closed it within three, at 42-39. Clarkston would get within three again at 51-49, before Petticord put it away with a steal and a layup and the four free throws.
Even with the loss, the Wolves had plenty of bright spots, particularly with the three youngsters making debuts.
“We had so much freshman minutes out there, and that’s just good for them. That’s going to make them better,” said Weyer. “Maddie Skorupski is an up-and-comer, and I think everybody saw that today. She’s not getting much written up about her, but she should. She’s smooth. Everything’s smooth with her. She puts a lot on her shoulders, as well, and that’s a lot for a freshman to have. We just backed that down a little bit. The first time I put her in just a bit, then back out. Just getting her feet wet, getting the jitters out. At the end of the game, I thought she was comfortable.”
The Wolves also have a couple of more experienced players in juniors Lexi Linton and Taylor Heaton, along with last year’s freshman revelation, Kaelyn Kaul. But Heaton got in early foul trouble Thursday, robbing Weyer of what is normally an extra coach on the floor.
“She’s great when she’s in there. She is a leader for us, as a junior. We are so young anyway. I took her out with two, and she got another one, and I had to take her out. She was even trying to get me to put her back in there in the first half, with three fouls, and I told her ‘I can’t.’ She played that way the rest of the game, and that’s a testament to how smart she plays,” Weyer said. “We’re so young anyway. Taking these games, as hard as they are, is just going to make us better for this year, and for next year.”