EAST LANSING – It was a bad look for Birmingham Detroit Country Day from the opening tip of Friday’s Class B semifinal.
Slow starters most of the season, the defending champions threw the ball all over the Breslin Center (18 turnovers) and couldn’t make a shot (32.1%) in what turned out to be a 57-46 setback to a well-prepared Grand Rapids South Christian group.
The Sailors (25-2), were aggressive, poised and had an answer for junior guard Destiny Pitts in Markayla Vander, a rangy, elite defender who took on the challenge.
“I tried to get under her skin,” said Vander, who scored 14 points. “I didn’t say anything to her. It was just my physical presence. I thought I did a good job.”
Her performance was a turning point.
“We looked in the book and we saw at halftime that (Pitts) had only four points and I said ‘Markalya, we need the same thing in the second half,’ ” said South Christian coach Kim Legge. “We’ve played with a lot of poise all season. When teams make runs at us, we keep our composure.”
Down, 24-14, at halftime because of great Sailors’ defense and 12 turnovers, the hopes of a Country Day repeat went to the bench when Pitts picked up her third and fourth fouls within 52 seconds in the third quarter, the fourth coming on an offensive foul call while she was dribbling up-court.
“I thought they were going to call a foul on them,” said Pitts. “I thought it was suspect.”
Four minutes later, junior center Tylar Bennett picked up her fourth foul falling over a Sailor during a scramble and joined Pitts on the bench.
“We didn’t perform, but they took us out of a lot of things we wanted to do,” admitted Country Day coach Frank Orlando. “They’re a good team. God bless them. We didn’t give up and we got it down to four. They played very good defense, and I give them credit for that.”
Foul trouble and the gritty play of South Christian had the Sailors ahead comfortably, 37-26, after three.
Both Pitts and Bennett entered the game to start the fourth, and the Sailors made sure Pitts was looking at two to three defenders. She finished with 14 points, but “I missed a three in the corner. We had so many people in foul trouble. Tylar and I went to the bench with four fouls and our senior (Arika Tolbert) had four fouls and eventually fouled out.
“I told Coach O (Orlando) we’d be back and that’s my goal.”
Pitts’ triple got the Yellowjackets to within 41-37, but Zoie Hulst rolled in a jump shot and Isabella Scott bounced in a short jumper and the Sailors’ lead was back up to 45-37.
Jennifer DeBoer led South Christian with 18 points and Mariel Bruxvoort added 10.
“We thought we could play with them,” said DeBoer. “There was never any pressure on us. We weren’t expected to be here, so we were able to just go out and play. It wasn’t that we didn’t think they were good, but we had nothing to lose.”
Contact Perry A. Farrell: 313-222-2555 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @farrellperry.