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NOTEBOOK Close game adds chapter to Cousino-Port Huron Northern rivalry

  • Kate McArthur of Cousino shoots over Port Huron Northern center Bree Bauer during the second quarter of a MAC Red Division game on the Huskies' floor.

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Depending on one’s perspective, the distance between Cousino and Port Huron Northern is about about 55 miles, or a few points.

The girls basketball programs from the Macomb Area Conference schools can’t seem to get far away from one other.

The rivals staged another memorable game Wednesday night when senior Kierra Fletcher scored 21 points to lead the Patriots to a 53-51 triumph over Port Huron Northern, which was led by senior Bree Bauer’s 24 points.

It was the second MAC Red Division game of the season for Cousino and the first for Port Huron Northern, which was 7-0 entering the contest on its new floor.

The game between the 2015-16 Red co-champions wasn’t decided until the Huskies’ desperation shot from beyond half court fell short at the final buzzer, and it’s unlikely that surprised anyone in the gymnasium.

“We’ve had one of the better rivalries, not only in the MAC, but in Michigan, I think,” Cousino coach Mike Lee said.

Two of the last three meetings have been decided by two points.

“I think our teams mimic each other because we both run the transition game really well,” Fletcher said. “Playing them is basically like playing against ourselves.

“The way we play in practice helps us a lot against them.”

Port Huron Northern swept two games against Cousino last season.

On the Patriots’ floor, the Huskies built a 17-point second-half lead, but the Patriots roared back and wound up losing by only two points.

Later, with Cousino having clinched a share of the division championship, Port Huron Northern won by double digits for the eighth of what would become nine consecutive Red victories that enabled the Huskies to grab a share of the crown.

Then, in the state tournament, Port Huron Northern went to the state Class A quarterfinal round, and Cousino rose a couple of steps higher by winning the state championship.

“Both programs have a lot of tradition,” Lee said.

Those traditions have been built with the help of the teams’ rivalry.

In 2014-15, Port Huron Northern finished second and Cousino third behind Grosse Pointe South in the MAC Red.

The season before, Cousino finished first and the Huskies second in the MAC White.

In 2012-13, the teams shared the White Division championship.

In 2011-12, Cousino and Grosse Pointe South tied for the top spot in the White while Port Huron Northern won the MAC Blue crown.

Through their recent journeys together, the Huskies had always been able to beat the Patriots at home.

Cousino’s victory last week was its first at Port Huron Northern in Lee’s coaching tenure, a stretch during which the Patriots have had two Macomb County Player of the Year award winners in Fletcher and Elena Popkey, who went on to play at Oakland University.

“We usually get close here,” Lee said, “but sometimes we just haven’t played well.”

Cousino trailed 47-43 with 5:29 left, but held Port Huron Northern to four points the rest of the game.

Meanwhile, Fletcher made consecutive baskets, and then the Georgia Tech recruit assisted on a bucket by senior team captain Rachel Hayes that gave Cousino a 49-47 lead with 2:39 to play.

Fletcher’s put-back of her own missed shot put Cousino ahead by four, and the Patriots held off the Huskies despite missing four of six free throws in the final 25 seconds.

“This was our Super Bowl,” Fletcher said. “For everyone else, playing us is their Super Bowl since we’re the defending state champs.”

Port Huron Northern plays at Cousino on Jan. 19.

That will be one of what figures to be several key games in the Red championship race.

The six-team division started 2017 with five teams above .500. No other MAC division had as many winning teams.

Cousino isn’t a tall team. The Patriots don’t have a player who matches up against the height of, say, Port Huron Northern’s Bauer in the post.

But the Patriots weren’t a big team last year, either.

“We have heart,” Lee said.

In the victory over Northern, Cousino got important second-half baskets from 10th-grader Kate McArthur, who finished with 13 points, along with Hayes, senior captain Aubrey Fetzer and sophomore Mackenzie Cook.

“We know teams are going to put two or three on Fletcher, sometimes five at the end of a game,” Lee said. “Other people need to step up.

“Other teams might not think we have the people to step up, but we think we do.”

Cousino has two Red Division games in the coming week, against Grosse Pointe South and Romeo.

• BLUE BLOOD: D’Sean Hamilton scored seven of his 13 points in the fourth quarter to help Richmond start its conference schedule with a 49-46 victory at Armada. Hamilton, a senior, was an All-Macomb County linebacker and hhe played running back while helping Richmond win the Blue Water Area Conference football championship in the fall.

“He might be the best athlete in our area,” Blue Devils coach Josh Presnell said. “He works hard. He seems to be in the right place at the right time.”

• SEARCHING: Armada expected to have a strong season with a roster dominated by juniors and seniors. However, the loss to Richmond dropped the Tigers to 2-4 heading into a Friday game at BWAC rival Yale.

Armada fell behind Richmond 11-0.

“In the games we’ve lost, we’ve (fallen behind),” Tigers coach Russ Collins said. “We don’t come out with an intensity or a focus on the game. We’ve come out very, very slow and we’ve got to come up with a solution.”

• NFL NIGHT: Stevenson will honor its six football players who went on to NFL careers during halftime of the Titans’ boys game against Grosse Pointe South on Jan. 26. Dan Jilek (Buffalo Bills), Jim Szymanski (Denver Broncos), Pete Chryplewicz (Detroit Lions), Frank Zombo (Green Bay Packers, Kansas City Chiefs), Carl Davis (Baltimore Ravens) and Chris Liwienski (Minnesota Vikings) are scheduled to attend the ceremony.

Last Updated: 1/8/2017 6:13:19 PM EST