Freshman's poise boosts Williamston girls basketball

Freshman's poise boosts Williamston girls basketball

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Freshman's poise boosts Williamston girls basketball

Kenzie Lewis, foreground, of Williamston grabs a defensive rebound in front of Lauren Russell, right, of Portland early in the 4th quarter of their Class B regional championship game Thursday March 9, 2017 at Don Johnson Fieldhouse in Lansing.

Kenzie Lewis, foreground, of Williamston grabs a defensive rebound in front of Lauren Russell, right, of Portland early in the 4th quarter of their Class B regional championship game Thursday March 9, 2017 at Don Johnson Fieldhouse in Lansing.

WILLIAMSTON —  Kenzie Lewis grew up sharing the dinner table with the all-time leading scorer in Williamston boys basketball history, but her game couldn’t be more different.

Lewis is a pass-first player — her 6.9 assists per game was the best in the Lansing area during the regular season. She wants to make a good shot a great shot. Scoring? The freshman point guard will worry about that when the time comes.

“People get mad at her for not shooting enough, and people got mad at me for shooting too much,” said Lewis’ older brother, Riley, who is the school’s all-time leading scorer and a freshman on the Hope College men’s basketball team. “The common denominator is that we both find a way to win. That’s what I think is really special about her: She can run a team, as a freshman, one game away from going to the Breslin.”

Lewis’ poise, defense and basketball IQ have helped the Class B No. 3-ranked Hornets (23-1) reach heights untouched in 24 seasons, and they’ll be looking to further that run in Tuesday’s Class B state quarterfinal matchup against unbeaten and No. 1-ranked Ypsilanti Arbor Prep.

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“She plays well beyond a typical freshman,” said 10th-year coach Pete Cool, whose team captured its first regional title since 1993 on Thursday. “And we ask her to.

“The poise, the confidence, it really gets us jacked up, to be quite honest.”

Lewis is Williamston’s primary ball handler, a role she took over after standout guard Renee Sturm graduated last season. Lewis said her time playing big-time AAU basketball has allowed her to sidestep the pressure that comes with having the ball in her hands at critical moments. At this point, she said, it doesn’t faze her.

Junior guard Maddie Watters, who is the team’s leading scorer, said Lewis’ poise and calm demeanor are big reasons why the Hornets haven’t backtracked after losing their all-state senior guard.

“She holds the ball 50 percent of the time, and it’s a big deal that she can hold the ball as long as she does,” Watters said. “She handles the ball really well, and it’s helped us get to where we are so far.”

Throughout Williamston’s postseason run, the freshman has proved to be more than just a willing passer and concise dribbler. In the regional championship win over Portland, Lewis recorded seven steals. In her team’s regional semifinal win over Grand Rapids South Christian, she was one point and one steal away from a triple-double (nine points, nine steals and 12 assists).

On the scoring front, Lewis admits that she doesn’t, yet, possess the confidence of her brother. In recent weeks, her coaches have asked her to look for her shot more.

Lewis is more focused on the other things, and it’s put the Hornets at the doorstep of Michigan State’s Breslin Center.

“I’ve always been pass first, get my teammates open,” Lewis said. “We need that on this team, as well. But, also, I realize when I need to step up and start scoring more.

“Right now, I’m just trying to do anything to help our team win.”

Contact James L. Edwards III at jledwards@lsj.com. Follow him on Twitter @JLEdwardsIII.

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