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Fletcher is clutch as Cousino tops Grosse Pointe North PHOTO GALLERY

  • Cousino's Kierra Fletcher, who finished with a game-high 30 points in Friday's 44-35 win at Grosse Pointe North, drives to the basket in the first half. (Photo by Bill Roose)
  • North freshman Michelle Bodnariuk (12) brings the ball up the floor against Cousino senior forward Rachel Hayes (2) Friday night. (Photo by Bill Roose)
  • North sophomore forward Madeline Mills (30) boxes out Cousino senior forward Aubrey Fetzer (5) following a first-half free throw. (Photo by Bill Roose)

Senior scores 30 in Patriots' 44-35 win

GROSSE POINTE WOODS >> Cousino’s Kierra Fletcher proved to be too much for a group of upset-minded underclassmen looking to knock off the defending Class A state basketball champions Friday night.

“We haven’t had to rely on her much this year as a crutch because other people have stepped up,” Cousino coach Mike Lee said. “Tonight was one of those nights where we had to lean on her. … We don’t do it much, but I’m glad we could do it tonight.”

The senior guard – who signed a national letter of intent with Georgia Tech – took over the MAC Red showdown when her team needed her most, scoring 30 points in a nail-biting 44-35 victory at Grosse Pointe North.

Despite being without their top scorer and only senior on the roster (Katherine Snow), the Norsemen were clearly ready to pull an upset, and Lee said he knew it.

“Absolutely!” the Patriots’ coach said. “Sometimes you hope your gut feeling it wrong. We came out flat and we didn’t shoot well, a lot of air balls because of our legs. It was one of those grind games and I knew it coming in.”

The Patriots relied on Fletcher’s 16 points in the first half, riding her performance to a 20-15 lead at intermission. Kate McArthur (four points) and Erin McArthur (two points) accounted for Cousino’s other first-half points.

The game began to turn in the Patriots’ favor in the second half when they outscored North 14-9 in the third quarter to open up its first double-digit lead when Aubrey Fetzer (two points) hit a jumper from the wing for a 26-15 edge. Fletcher added another six points in the third quarter and the Patriots managed to take a 34-24 into the fourth quarter.

The Patriots built a 37-24 cushion – their largest lead of the night – when Fletcher completed a three-point play to begin the final frame. She scored eight points in the fourth, while shooting 6-of-7 from the free-throw line. Rachel Hayes (six points) also made two clutch free throws down the stretch.

However, the Norsemen showed resiliency in clawing back and making it a two-possession game late.

Up six points midway through the fourth, Cousino (7-2, 3-0) spread the floor, but Evelyn Zacharias (two points) stole the ball in the backcourt, which led to forward Julia Ayrault (19 points) getting to the line with 3:26 left. The sophomore captain made one free throw that pulled the Norsemen within four points of the lead. Forced to foul for the rest of the game, being down 39-35 was as close as the Norsemen could get to catching up to the reigning champs.

“Hey, I was very pleased,” North coach Gary Bennett said. “Our leading scorer didn’t play today and I told the girls, ‘One of two things were gonna happen: either we’re going to just fold and give in or we’re going to use this as an opportunity.’

Sophomore guard Meghan Gallagher scored nine points and sophomore forward Madeline Mills added five points for North (5-2, 1-1).

“I was most pleased that when it went to 13 (down) we could have folded right then, but we didn’t,” Bennett added. “We got ourselves back in it. So overall, I was pleased because we are so young. All we have are (two) freshmen and (seven) sophomores.”

Snow, who is averaging 18 points, suffered a hip injury over the Christmas break and is expected to miss at least two weeks.

Last Updated: 1/6/2017 10:32:55 PM EST