Warren Cousino’s Kierra Fletcher had driven the lane against taller Northville defenders all night, and that appeared to wear on her by the time the Mustangs gained some momentum in the third and fourth quarters.
But Fletcher didn’t back down, continuing to take the ball right into heavy traffic. And when the defenders collapsed on her yet another time with four minutes to play, she whirled around and fired it back to freshman Kate McArthur, who calmly drained it from beyond the arc.
What do you call that? A Patriot missile?
“I wasn’t shooting well, and I don’t know what was up with that, but everyone in the stands said ‘Keep shooting’ and coach knows that I can shoot,” McArthur said. “I’d rather miss all those and hit that one big shot.”
The long bomb pushed Cousino’s lead back up to seven and that appeared to be the dagger, as the Patriots went on to a 41-29 victory and earned their first trip to the state semifinals Friday at Michigan State’s Breslin Center.
“She’s a great shooter,” Fletcher said of her younger teammate. “If you come out on her, she can blow past you, but if you try to collapse on me, I can kick it out to Kate, so either way it’s kind of hard to stop the 1-2.”
Fletcher had a game-high 25, including 11 from the free-throw line, while McArthur had the team’s only two treys en route to eight points. Although a playoff run this deep is new territory for Cousino (21-4), neither the 1 nor the 2 said she felt any pressure.
“Coach has always told me to play my game,” Fletcher said. “He doesn’t want me to adapt my game to them; he want the other team to adapt to me, and that’s a big part of it, so when they collapsed on me, I got it out to my shooters and that’s how we kept getting the easy lay-ups or the threes.”
“I don’t really feel any pressure because our defense has been amazing so far. This has been the best defense we’ve played,” McArthur said. “I’ve never been in this type of situation where I get to play in states and all that, and being part of this team is great because just getting this far is amazing.”
While Cousino’s aggressiveness is its calling card, the Patriots really clamped down in the fourth quarter, surrendering just four points to Northville (21-4).
“They trap everywhere,” Mustangs coach Todd Gudith said. “It always feels like there’s two kids on the ball, and it seems like there’s six or seven kids on the floor for them because they fly around everywhere. They try to get you to cough it up under pressure, and if you’re not poised, that’s where they make you pay.”
Northville — which was also making its deepest postseason run — got 12 points from Brook Adams. But Cousino will play on, facing Hudsonville in Friday afternoon’s 2:50 p.m. semifinal.
“It’s an amazing feeling. It was a dream eight months ago and now it’s reality. I can’t wait ’til Friday,” Fletcher said. “Right now the sky’s the limit for us. We don’t care who we’re going against, we’re going to give it our all, and hopefully Saturday we’re coming out state champs.”