EAST LANSING – Rob Smith may not always like the way Aazh Nye pushes the envelope on the basketball court.
But the East Lansing coach also realizes those are the type of people that make things happen.
And Nye did that Friday night.
The junior guard hit the go-ahead basket in the closing seconds as East Lansing escaped with a 48-47 victory over No. 5-ranked DeWitt in a Class A district final.
“Aazh is a warrior. I love her,” Smith said.
“I think it’s the kind of people in this world that push the envelope that end up doing great things. She did a great thing tonight. She worked hard to accomplish that and I think she opened up some eyes in terms of her potential at the next level.”
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Nye had 21 points while helping the Trojans (20-2) avenge an early-season one-point loss to the Panthers (21-2) and capture a second straight district title. She hit the go-ahead basket with 14 seconds remaining to help East Lansing recover after squandering an 18-point lead.
“During the whole game either I was getting to the rim and finishing or was getting fouled,” Nye said. “I knew I had to make a decision and take it finish or take it and get fouled. Luckily by the grace of God, I finished.”
The teams alternated the lead a few times down the stretch. Jessah McManus gave DeWitt its first lead since the game’s early stages when she made a corner 3 with more than a minute left on the clock. After a missed free throw by DeWitt, Nye made a layup with 35 seconds to put the Trojans back in front.
Grace George answered with an inside basket on the other end.
But Nye responded again, racing down the court to hit an inside basket.
East Lansing then got a block by Jaida Hampton in the closing seconds to fend off the Panthers and advance to next week’s regional at Sturgis where it will face Battle Creek Lakeview.
“I was so determined to win,” Nye said. “We deserved this. We worked so hard for this moment. We just took the memory of what happened last time (against DeWitt) and we used that to fuel us at the end of this game.”
DeWitt coach Bill McCullen was proud of the way his team fought back to give itself a shot at a title after digging itself in an early hole.
“Just to get back in that game took a lot of effort,” McCullen said. “The amount of heart and just guts to continue fighting and fighting and fighting – I’ll have to watch it and see the highlights of that fourth quarter in particular. We made some huge shots and it all started with defense. We created some opportunities that we weren’t getting in the first half.
“We were just getting destroyed off the dribble in the first half and that gave them the big lead. Whatever kicked in from an effort standpoint defensively, we just stopped giving up those drives and chipped away at it. I’m just really proud of our kids. That was a heck of a basketball game.”
Contact Brian Calloway at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @brian_calloway.