EAST LANSING — If you want to watch alligators attack, here are your best options: vacation in the Everglades, surf YouTube, watch Animal Planet, or buy a ticket to the Breslin Center whenever Ypsilanti Arbor Prep is playing.
The Gators won their first state title, 53-37, as their quickness and aggressive trap defense caused problems for Traverse City St. Francis all day long. Arbor Prep forced St. Francis into making 29 turnovers and benefited by scoring 33 points off the miscues.
“Our team defense is phenomenal,” said Nastassja Chambers, who led Arbor Prep (25-2) with 14 points. “Adrienne (Anderson) does a really good job of messing with the point guards; it makes the point guards’ passes really bad and it’s easier for us to get the steal. It gives us a better chance to pressure all the other girls; because our defense is so in people’s face, it makes them really hard for them to run an offense.”
The tone was set early, as Arbor Prep scored the game’s first nine points. The Gladiators did not get a shot off during their first five trips up the floor, and did not score their first points until two minutes remained in the first quarter.
“We were fired up coming in the gym. We were determined not to let them determine the flow of the game from the beginning,” Arbor Prep coach Rod Wells said. “I decided I wasn’t going to wait to start going after them. We were just going to go after them early, we were going to try to put some pressure on them, and we were going to see how they handled it early instead of waiting for the flow of the game. So I just took my chances and I told the girls, ‘We’re ready.’”
St. Francis (26-2) had trouble reacting.
“They were just a little bit quicker than what we’re used to seeing,” St. Francis coach Keith Haske said. “It’s not just one or two quick kids; they’ve got more quick kids than I ever want to see in my life. I was impressed. Usually against one or two quick kids you can be OK, but they just seemed to have about three more, then three more came in, and we could just never seem to get in a rhythm.”
St. Francis did close the gap to 10-9 eventually, but Arbor Prep continued to control the pace, and scored 11 points on their first six possessions of the fourth quarter to put the game away.
Besides Chambers’ 14 points, Cydney Williams added 10 while Anderson had eight for the Gators. For St. Francis, Annie Lyman had 15 while Lauren McDonnell contributed 10 and Juliana Phillips had nine.
While Arbor Prep’s shooting percentage was just a little bit better than St. Francis’ (38% to 34%), the Gators’ ability to limit the Gladiators’ looks was a big factor. Arbor Prep had 64 shot attempts while St. Francis was held to 42.