We've moved! To view our most current content, click here.
All Basketball - Girls Stories

Basketball - Girls

Yellowjackets fulfill promise, return to title game after semifinal win over Marshall WITH PHOTO GALLERY

DCDS will play for its state-record 12th title at 6 p.m. Saturday, facing unbeaten Ypsi Arbor Prep

EAST LANSING >> She told you. Don’t say she didn’t.

After last year’s disappointing semifinal loss, Birmingham Detroit Country Day star Destiny Pitts guaranteed the Yellowjackets would be sitting at the same podium one year later, talking about a different outcome.

Flash forward a year …. aaaaaaaand, she told you so.

With a 46-42 win over the defending Class B champion, No. 6 Marshall, in Friday’s semifinal at Michigan State’s Breslin Center, the No. 2-ranked Yellowjackets are headed to Saturday’s state finals game — their state-record 16th title-game appearance — to play for the program’s state-record 12th title.

Country Day (25-1) will face No. 1-ranked Ypsilanti Arbor Prep (27-0) — the defending Class C champion — for the Class B crown Saturday at 6 p.m.

“I think it means a lot, with Coach O’s 50th year, and us seniors, we wanted to do this and — I don't know if you remember last year, but I told you we’d be back here. I was like ‘We’ll be back,’ so …” Pitts said with a grin at Friday’s postgame news conference. “Tradition is instill in our seniors, so we can pass it down to our juniors and freshmen. It’s important for our school … it’s important to bring it back to our fans, our community, our teachers, our school, because they believed in us the whole way.”

Last year’s semifinal loss to Grand Rapids South Christian was a huge motivating factor for this year’s Country Day squad. And it helped mold some of the attributes that have helped this year’s team get in a position to go a step (or two) further than last year’s.

“When we came up short last year, no one really expected that to happen, and we’ve been on both sides — we lost one and we won one — and we decided we didn't like the feeling of losing one. We wanted to get back here,” junior Kaela Webb said. “We’ve been working hard in practice, defensively and offensively. We share the ball more. We average over 15 team assists, and our defense is more aggressive.”

It was that aggressive defense that changed it from a potential shootout into a slugfest, as the Yellowjackets (25-1) limited the Redhawks (23-3) to just three field goals (on 15 attempts from the floor) in the second and third periods combined.

“We went to what we call ‘black’ — it was our match-up zone,” said Country Day coach Frank Orlando, before being hushed by his players. “We just matched up.”

So the ‘Black’ defense is a secret?

“No, I can’t talk about it,” Pitts joked, not even amending the stance, should the Yellowjackets win on Saturday. “No. Nothing.”

The matchup zone allowed the Yellowjackets to hold Marshall — which had shot 54.5 percent from the floor in the first quarter — to 25 percent shooting the rest of the way.

“I think they’d never seen a look like that, because the games we’d seen them play, the defense was usually playing man-to-man against them. We switched up the defense, and they didn’t adjust,” Pitts said. “I think we played defense really well down the stretch, once we got adjusted in the second quarter. Then when we came out second half, we knew that defense was going to win the game, and we did a good job communicating to each other where everyone was going to be on the floor. In our timeouts, we kept pushing ‘Defense, defense. We gotta get stops in order to win.’ Marshall’s a really good team, and we knew they weren’t going to give up.”

It was defense that sealed the win at the end, too, with Tylar Bennett swatting a layup attempt by Nikki Tucker with 50 seconds remaining, and Maxine Moore — hampered by four fouls — doing the same to Tucker with 34 seconds left.

“We worked hard on blocking. When they were coming, we’d tell them to wait, wait, wait, then block,” Orlando said. “Don’t go after them right away, because they’re too good at what they do.”

What the Redhawks do is make good use of the pump fake, part of what helped get the Yellowjackets in a bit of foul trouble. Three of the five starters had three or more fouls at the end of the game.

“Well, we just knew we had to lock them in, and we knew they were really good with the up-fake, so we knew we had to wait until the second shot to lock in and get the ball,” Bennett said. “We were just there. Help defense.”

Each time, the Yellowjackets followed it up by making two free throws — the first time by Webb, the second time by Pitts, who tied for the game’s scoring lead with Jill Konkle and Tucker, all with 13 points. Bennett added 10 points.

“It was down to the wire, and our kids came through. They came through. It was very close. They never quit. They kept their head up, and they kept playing,” Orlando said. “That’s all I can say. They never gave up, never once.”

Last Updated: 3/17/2017 10:14:20 PM EST

blog comments powered by Disqus