Farmington Hills Harrison senior Marissa Cotton had 19 points (including five 3-pointers) in the Hawks' 48-45 win over North Farmington in Monday's Class A district opener. (The Oakland Press/MATTHEW B. MOWERY)
Basketball - Girls
GIRLS BASKETBALL: Hawks survive North Farmington in district opener WITH VIDEO
FARMINGTON HILLS —Sometimes, you forget just how young the Hawks are.
As good as Farmington Hills Harrison has been this year, it’s still a young team that’s never really been in this situation before, never really been the postseason favorite.
And, as a program that has exactly zero district titles in its history, and only one senior, that lack of experience is glaring.
It showed in Monday’s Class A district opener, as the host North Farmington Raiders — a team the Hawks had dispatched by 17 points in December — took Harrison to the final buzzer, missing a potential game-tying 3-pointer in the final five seconds.
Harrison (20-1) survived, 48-45, moving on to the first of two district semifinals at 5 p.m. Wednesday, when it will take on Walled Lake Northern.
“We weren’t able to pressure as well as we were last time. We did a poor job, we tried dribbling through things way too much. Our young kids played like young kids tonight — at times. Our kids played like young kids, and it hurt us,” Harrison coach Tim Micklash said, “because we talked about it in practice, we talked about it in timeouts — we just kept trying to dribble through things, instead of catching and passing the ball. And it caused a lot of problems for us.”
So did a fired-up North (10-10) squad which may not have had the gaudy record to show for the regular season, but had the experience of playing in the tougher division of the Oakland Activities Association.
“I thought playing in our division (the OAA Red) helped us, because we play some real tough teams, some really good competition, and the girls, I think, believed we could still do it,” said North Farmington coach Tim Carruthers, whose team had all the momentum in the fourth quarter, after falling behind by as many as eight points, scrambling back in the final four minutes, and executing everything perfectly — except scoring.
“We just couldn’t make that big shot. We missed too many free throws. Tom Negoshian always taught me, from his old Pontiac coach, in the state tournament, you’ve gotta make free throws. I don’t even want to look and see what it was. (It was 10-for-22)
“They made open shots. They did. That’s to their credit. We missed open shots. To me, that was really the game.”
Unlike the first time, when she was still rounding into form after returning from her second ACL surgery in as many seasons, this time the Raiders had a healthy Megan Carter. The sophomore scored six of her team-high 15 points in the fourth quarter, including a 3-pointer with a minute left that made it a two-point game, 47-45.
“She’s such a tough kid, and to have two ACLs ... I think each game, she’s playing a little bit better. I think where now, we’re seeing what she’s capable of,” Carruthers said. “I thought our kids competed harder tonight than they did the last time we played them. I thought when they made a run the last time, we struggled to kind of come back from it. Tonight, when they made runs, we kept bouncing back. And I just thought we competed harder tonight. It just wasn’t enough, obviously.”
It was the first time a lot of the Hawks had been in a situation like that. It was something that their senior leader, Cotton — who had 14 of her game-high 19 points in the first half, when the Hawks were struggling to find scoring — had tried to warn them about.
“She’s been our leader all year long,” Micklash said of his point guard, whose 3-pointer early in the fourth put the Hawks up by eight. “But she really had a talk, and talked to the team a lot prior to the game. And we’ve talked to her in practice about things. She really didn’t want tonight to be her last game.”
What did Cotton tell her young teammates?
“That it’s a real go. Playing in these district playoffs is very important, and it’s hard for us, because last year, we didn’t have such a good season or we didn’t make it as far as we wanted to,” she said.
It was clear the nerves were getting to the Hawks a bit, as the Raiders began scrambling on defense, cutting into what had appeared to be a comfortable lead in the fourth.
“Yeah. I was. I had a little case of butterflies. But you know, I was just trying to get us to win,” said freshman Kristen Nelson, who hit Harrison’s only field goal in the final four minutes, on a drive to the bucket with 1:24 left, then made it a three-point game with a free throw with 9.5 seconds left. “It just gave me more lights, to know that we could win this, we could pull this off.”
Nelson finished with seven points, while her freshman counterpart Amber Stephens had 13. Sophomore center Kyla Rolland had nine points.
So how was the first taste of postseason pressure?
“It was everything and more. I was ready, I was geeked up for this game, and we came out with the win,” said Nelson, who had come out to watch the Hawks play in districts last year.
So was it the same feeling?
“Uh-uh, nope. Not even close,” she said.
Email Matthew B. Mowery at firstname.lastname@example.org.Class A district(at North Farmington)FARMINGTON HILLS HARRISON 48, NORTH FARMINGTON 45
NORTH — Jessica Carruthers 1 1-2 3; Megan Carter 1 (2) 7-14 15; Lindsay Schachinger 2 0-0 4; Kaitlyn Kendall 4 2-4 10; Bri’janae Durrough 5 (1) 0-0 13; Kabrii Crawford 0 0-2 0; Totals 13 (3) 10-22 45.
HARRISON — Marissa Cotton 2 (5) 0-2 19; Amber Stephens 5 (1) 0-0 13; Kyla Rolland 4 1-2 9; Kristen Nelson 3 1-2 7; Totals 14 (6) 2-4 48.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
NF 11 9 12 13 — 45
FHH 8 13 14 13 — 48
Records: Harrison 20-1; North Farmington 10-10.