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GIRLS BASKETBALL: Quarters a chance at redemption for three squads
Kettering, Country Day and Lakes all have one memorable loss that has spurred them on
Detroit Country Day’s Asia Doss (20) goes in for an uncontested layup during the first half of the MHSAA Class B regional semifinal against Capac. After winning their 15th straight regional title, the Yellowjackets get a quarterfinals rematch with Goodrich on Tuesday. (The Oakland Press file photo/KEN SWART)
Gabrielle Troy (left), Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes, attempts to take the ball away from Rachel Torey, Cardinal Mooney, during district final action. The Lakers play Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary in Tuesday's Class D quarterfinals. (The Oakland Press file photo/LARRY McKEE)
Waterford Kettering's Taylor Steinhelper is fouled by Hartland's Mallory Slavin in the fourth quarter of their KLAA Lakes Conference championship game. The Captains have made a run all the way to the quarterfinals in Class A, facing Grosse Pointe South at Detroit U-D Mercy. (The Oakland Press file photo/CHRIS WALL)
Just one embarrassing moment is often all it takes to motivate most people to never let that feeling happen again.
For each of the three county teams that made it as far as the girls basketball quarterfinals in their respective classes — Waterford Kettering, Birmingham Detroit Country Day and Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes — there’s that one “I’d-rather-forget, but-it’s-too-painful-not-to-remember” moments in the recent past that played a big part in them getting all the way to Tuesday’s games.
For the Captains (23-2), who play Grosse Pointe South (20-3) in a Class A quarterfinal at University of Detroit-Mercy, it was a very public stumble at the end of last season, a very uncomfortably abrupt ending in the postseason after a very successful regular season.
For the Lakers (20-4), who visit the Captains’ gym across town to take on Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary (18-6) in a Class D quarterfinal, that uncomfortable moment was a loss to Madison Heights Bishop Foley in the Catholic League tournament this season, ending their run of three straight league titles.
And for the Yellowjackets (22-1) it was a chance at redemption against the very opponent they’ll face tonight, the same Goodrich team that ran them out of the gym in last year’s quarters.
It’s the game that’s been on the minds of every single one of the Yellowjackets for the past 363 days.
The rematch between the two teams — ranked No. 3 and No. 1 respectively in Class B — at North Branch High School has already been dubbed “World War III” on online chat boards, since it’s the third straight year the two have met in this round.
“We’ve had, over the years, different rivalries,” said longtime Country Day coach Frank Orlando, pointing to the span of six seasons (1997-2001) when the Yellowjackets ran into Flint Powers five times, with one or the other claiming the state title each time.
“It reminds me of that era, but as far as — maybe this game is more significant, because of the way we lost the game. ... We didn’t play as well as we wanted to in that particular game, and I think that hurt the most. We were prepared, but we just didn’t execute on game day.
“When you look at it, you really can’t recover until — It’s that old saying that you can’t do anything about what’s happened, but you can start anew, and focus on this game. I think that’s what we were trying to accomplish, is to put that aside, and say ‘Let’s play a better basketball game.’ ”
One big roadblock to that happening is the health of Miss Basketball finalist Aerial Powers, who’s missed eight games with a high-ankle sprain. Orlando said her availability would hinge on her ability to practice Monday night, but her time would likely be limited no matter what.
“We’ve played eight games without her, and the kids have done very well. We’re going to focus on just being a team,” said Orlando, acknowledging the contributions of senior Amber Deane, who’s averaged 21 points per game in Country Day’s run to a 15th straight regional title.
“I’m so proud of Amber. She has taken on the responsibility of being a team leader, and she has met the challenge ... and probably has even passed expectations of what she could do. She’s truly become a great player for Country Day. And the other players have also picked it up. I’m very proud of, instead of hanging our heads, they actually seem more determined.”
For the Lakers, who’ve had just four of 14 losses over the past three seasons come against other Class D teams — and none of them in the MHSAA postseason — very few of those other 10 are ones they’d want to have back.
One of those is the loss to Class C Foley, when the Ventures shot the lights out in the first half, leading by double digits. The loss got the attention of the Lakers.
“You’d always like to get it back, but that’s not how it works. We’ve certainly made it a point of emphasis with the girls, as we’ve had some big games (since): Don’t come in without understanding that everything’s on the line. It only takes one day of not focusing on the task to go home. We’ve done a good job since then, but it’s certainly been a point that we’ve kept them aware of,” said Lakers coach Steve Robak of the motivational utility of a loss like that.
“I think in this case, it was (useful). Those are games that we always wanted to win, and we have ... but when you do lose one, certainly it’s useful, or are a good thing, I think. A little easier to keep their focus, than when you’re always winning.
“Every now and then it helps.”
For the Captains, who haven’t been this far in the postseason since 2000, it took a first-round district ouster a year ago to really identify not only how far they’d come since coach Scott Woodhull returned to the bench three seasons ago, but also how far they still had to go.
“Last year, we really — we ran out of gas. Honestly, part of our problem was that we were playing really, really well, but we were playing really, really well against teams that were ... not very good. So we had a stretch of maybe 10 games where we won by an average of 20-32 points, so no matter what I preached, they didn’t believe it, because ‘Why would you tell me we’re not playing good, or working hard when we were winning by 30 points?’ And they didn’t understand,” said Woodhull, who took the program to the quarterfinals in back-to-back years (1999-2000) before taking a six-year hiatus.
“It’s not the fact that you’re winning, it’s how you’re winning, and how you’re playing in those wins that determine what a coach thinks. And we were slipping, and I felt it coming, and was concerned — and justifiably so, it turned out.
“But for them, it hurt them, and this year, that slip has not come in practice ... so it’s been nice.”
The pain of the poor postseason showing did stick with the Captains — “We use it as positive reinforcement. We know that if we don’t want to feel that way again, we’ve got to do stuff to not put ourselves in that position,” said senior Arjanai Washington — but it wasn’t something that Woodhull harped on. He dropped it after mentioning it the opening night of the regular season.
“That was probably it right there. We didn’t talk about that very often. They did occasionally — you know, when we had a big game coming, they kind of (did). I think they mentioned it a little bit more, but I don’t bring stuff up like that a lot. I just knew it was in there for me personally, and they knew it was in there, but it wasn’t a big focal point for us. It wasn’t worth it. They needed to move on, and they did,”
“And they’ve moved on as practice players, and obviously as tournament players, as well.”
Matthew B. Mowery covers girls basketball for The Oakland Press. Email him at email@example.com and follow all the prep action on Twitter @MIPrepZone.
Last Updated: 3/12/2012 9:57:07 PM EST