BRIGHTON — It was a matchup probably best suited for the confines of Michigan State’s Breslin Center. But it was the walls of Brighton High School that hosted a jam-packed Class B state quarterfinal showdown between No. 1-ranked Ypsilanti Arbor Prep and No. 3-ranked Williamston.
One team was fresh off its first regional title in 24 seasons. The other team was out to prove that it could win back-to-back state championships in two separate classes. The Hornets led by as many as seven points. The Gators, well, they found a way to win.
With 16.3 seconds left to play, Ypsilanti Arbor Prep’s Cydney Williams hit the game-winning bucket — her second basket of the night — to push the Gators through to the state semifinals with a 41-39 win over Williamston.
Ypsilanti Arbor Prep went 25-2 last season on its way to a Class C state championship. According to coach Rod Wells, the desire to hoist the trophy in Class B has been enough to drive his girls all season.
“We haven’t won a Class B title. …We haven’t won a Class B title,” said Wells, whose team is 26-0 and will face No. 5-ranked Freeland at 7:50 p.m. on Friday at the Breslin Center. “Half of the team hasn’t won a championship. The seniors have, but all of the underclassmen weren’t on the team that won the championship.
“That’s their drive right there.”
For the Hornets (23-2), the loss comes a week after they captured their first regional title since 1993. Junior guard Maddie Watters, who scored a game-high 21 points, said the goal for her team was to end the season raising the state championship trophy.
“This was our main focus,” Watters said. “Throughout most of the season it was one step; get past one game, get past one game. But we knew this would be a tough bump in the road.
“We knew they’d be our toughest challenge along the way. They put up a really great fight, and we knew in order to stick with them that we would need to fight. We did for a while, but we tried our hardest. We gave it our all.”
There were 16 lead changes in the game, and the biggest lead came in the first quarter when Williamston jumped out to a 12-5 lead. The Gators went on a 12-0 run to end the first quarter and start the second, but a bucket from freshman forward Paige Basore, who scored six points, allowed the Hornets to end the half on a 9-0 run and take a 21-17 lead into the locker room.
With Williamston holding a five-point lead midway through the third quarter, a basket from Ypsilanti Arbor Prep’s Lasha Petree ignited an 11-5 spurt to close the period. Petree scored a team-high 12 points, six of which came in the third quarter.
The Hornets were held to just one field goal in the final eight minutes, and a big fourth quarter from the Gators’ Rozhane Wells, who scored four of her 10 points in the final minutes, put her team in position for the game-clinching bucket.
“It sounds like a cliché, but we have a fairly young team,” Williamston coach Pete Cool said. “At the end, there were some key possessions where we couldn’t get a shot, or a good shot, and I think that was it.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the girls.”
Adrienne Anderson added nine points for Ypsilanti Arbor Prep.
Freshman Kenzie Lewis and seniors Elana Lycos and Halle Wisbiski all scored four points for the Hornets.
Williamston was without junior forward Allison Peplowski. Cool declined to comment on her absence from the game.
Contact James L. Edwards III at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JLEdwardsIII.