EAST LANSING – Detroit Edison just wants respect.
The blossoming Pioneers, who dismantled Flint Hamady, 54-31, in Thursday’s Class C girls basketball semifinal, moved a step closer to the ultimate respect: a state championship.
Edison (20-5), which began a girls basketball program five years ago and never had won a district title before this season, faces Pewamo-Westphalia (24-2) in Saturday’s final at 4 p.m. at the Breslin Center.
“People have been doubting us the whole year,” said Pioneers freshman Gabrielle Elliott, who finished with 24 points and five rebounds. “We came here on a mission.”
The Pioneers raced to a 9-0 lead. Hamady (19-6) was 0-for-12 shooting in the first quarter and didn’t score until the second. Edison led 28-8 at halftime.
“Our identity is defense, pressure defense,” Pioneers coach Monique Brown said. “That was amazing. I’m glad it happened on a day like this.”
The Hawks, who played Edison close in the second half, couldn’t overcome the early shooting woes.
“We had a lot of unforced turnovers,” said Hamady coach Keith Smith. “They’re an exceptionally good team, especially being so young, but we shot ourselves in the foot more than anything. We dug a hole, and it was difficult to come back out.”
The Pioneers began preparing in August with early morning workouts and strength training. Edison’s roster consists of two juniors, one sophomore and nine freshmen.
“We had 5:30 a.m. practices before school, and everyone showed up,” said sophomore Rickea Jackson, who finished the semifinal with 16 points, eight rebounds and three steals. “I was like, ‘We’re going to win this.’
“Every time we saw an article, we’d always see, ‘They’re talented, but they’re young.’ What does young got to do with anything? We proved everybody wrong, one game at a time.”
Brown always could depend on her girls to show up for summer and fall workouts.
“That’s been key to their success,” Brown said. “Whenever I called them, Saturday morning, Sunday afternoon, Friday night, they’re always there. I want to commend them and their parents for making sure that happened.”
The semifinal victory was especially gratifying for Jackson, who celebrated her 16th birthday on Thursday.
“I told my team, ‘I don’t want anything but to win this game,'” she said. “That’s my ultimate birthday gift. I love them for that.”
Aryana Naylor had 10 points and 10 rebounds for Hamady, and Deajah Cofield added 10 points and five steals.