EAST LANSING – Ithaca’s chances for a Class C state title took a big hit with 1:17 left in the first quarter Thursday at the Breslin Center, when senior point guard Brooklyn Dolloff suffered a right ankle injury after making a pass to a teammate.
She stepped on the foot of an Ypsilanti Arbor Prep player, went down withering in pain and was done for the day. She had scored four points up to that point in a close game.
Ithaca was unable to recover, falling, 72-44, in the Class C semifinal, sending Arbor Prep (24-2) to Saturday’s 4 p.m. championship game against Traverse City St. Francis.
Dolloff’s absence was noticeable quickly as Ithaca committed 11 turnovers in the second quarter alone.
Coach Jessie Rayburn said Flint Hamady suffered the same fate when it lost its point guard to an ankle injury during the quarterfinal loss to the Yellowjackets. But now the same nightmare was occurring on the Ithaca bench.
“I sprained it,” said a dejected Dolloff. “They took me in the back for X-rays. It was probably more painful not being out there than the injury. It was very upsetting.”
Arbor Prep lost to Flint Hamady, 50-46, in last year’s state semifinals.
“It took me about a month to get over that game,” said senior Nastassja Chambers, who led the Gators with 24 points. “I was lot more vocal this year. The girls probably got tired of me. The goal was to get back here and we played a tough schedule to get us ready.”
There was no let up by the Gators as the lead swelled to 31. They scored the first 17 points to start the third and outscored Ithaca, 30-5, during that quarter.
“That’s our game,” said Arbor Prep coach Rod Wells of his team’s pressure defense. “We knew they had lost their point guard and we were sorry to hear about that. Actually this team hasn’t forced as many turnovers as we’ve had in years past. We decided with the bigger arena that we would concentrate on sitting down and playing good man-to-man defense.”
Arbor Prep led by only one point, 16-15, after one quarter.
“With the injury we obviously had people playing out of position,” said Rayburn. “Their pressure caused us a lot of problems.”
The Yellowjackets had issues with the Gators’ press in the second quarter, as four turnovers helped Arbor Prep extend its lead to 22-17 on a fast-break lay-up by junior guard Ro’zhane Wells (11 points).
Ball-handling continued to be an issue when two straight turnovers by the Yellowjackets helped a run that produced the Gators first double-digit lead of the game, 29-19, on a layup by Chambers. Arbor Prep led, 36-25, at halftime.
Despite its miscues, Ithaca shot 60% in the first half, but was able to take just 20 shots. Meanwhile, the Gators were 41.7% from the field, but committed just five turnovers in the first half.
The turnovers kept coming in the third quarter for the Yellowjackets. By the time Ithaca finally scored in the third they were behind, 53-27.
Sophomore Kayla Belles led Ithaca with 16 points.
Contact Perry A. Farrell: 313-222-2555 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @farrellperry.