EAST LANSING — Micaela Kelly had her own special gameplan for what she didn’t want to be her last appearance in the Breslin Center.
“I wanted to get to a good start fast because I’ve never seen this team play so I didn’t want them to jump on us first,” the Detroit King senior guard said. “So I said if we get them early, then we wouldn’t have to worry about fighting for it to get back up.”
Kelly hit her first two three-point shots and the Crusaders were the ones doing the jumping.
King nailed nine three-point shots Friday to move into the Class A state championship game with a 56-48 semifinal victory over St. Johns.
Six of King’s triples came within the first nine minutes of the game as the Crusaders (24-1) had St. Johns reeling.
“Our goal was to try to bring them down a little bit, try to keep them out of the lane and challenge the shooters,” said St. Johns coach Mark Lasceski said. “They came out and hit their first three three-point shots and it was like: Holy Smokes!”
St. Johns (23-4) was a determined bunch and the Redwings never backed down from King, trailing only 16-14 after one quarter.
After drilling two more three-pointers in the first minutes of the second quarter, King missed four-straight triple attempts, but played good enough defense to build a 24-17 halftime lead.
“If you’re a three-point shooting team you’re always going to have those highs and those lows,” explained King coach William Winfield. “We always expect that, but hopefully our defense will hold up until we start hitting them again. We did an excellent job in terms of our select three-point shooting, which was a little bit off the last game that we played.”
King wound up shooting 9 of 18 from beyond the three-point arc, and it became frustrating for the St. Johns players to trade two-point baskets for three-pointer baskets.
“They were shooting tremendously well and props to them and credit to them because they were making good shots,” said St. Johns’ Maddie Maloney. “We were trying to get the hand up on their shots, but they kept putting them down.”
The Crusaders are always looking for three-point opportunities. Midway through the fourth quarter Kelly grabbed an offensive rebound in the lane and passed it outside to Alicia Norman, who drilled her third triple.
“I look at what the defense gives me and I was open so I shot it,” said Norman. “And my adrenaline was pumping.”
St. Johns trailed by as many as 14 points, but made a late run that Kelly was able fight off with six points.
“My free throw shooting could have been better if I would have relaxed more and took my time,” she said. “But I think I knocked down some good ones that sealed the game.”
It also sealed a spot in today Class A state championship game against Warren Cousino at noon. It will be the 12th championship game for the Crusaders, who have won five titles — but none since 2006.
“It means a lot mainly because this is my last year of high school and I’ll never get this chance again,” said Kelly, who has signed with DePaul. “And I want to go to college with something.”
Something like a state championship ring.
Contact Mick McCabe: 313-223-4744 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mickmccabe1
Photos from the game: