The defending Class A girls basketball champions are still standing.
Leading from start to finish, Warren Cousino withstood a late Farmington Hills Mercy push to reach its second straight semifinal with a 47-41 win over the Marlins Tuesday night at Southfield A&T High School.
The Patriots (24-2), who are just two wins away from repeating, captured their 19th straight game and will face Flushing (22-3) in the Final Four beginning at 1 p.m. Friday at Michigan State’s Breslin Center.
Georgia Tech signee Kierra Fletcher, the Miss Basketball runner-up to Jordan Walker of Muskegon Mona Shores, was once again the catalyst, scoring a game-high 19 points, while sophomore guard Kate McArthur added 13.
“We knew they were a very good team and wanted to control the tempo, so we knew we wanted to push the ball to our speed,” Fletcher said of Mercy, which finished 22-4 overall. “I didn’t worry about Miss Basketball too much. The individual awards really aren’t my thing. I’ll take losing Miss Basketball to winning a state championship any day.”
A steal and a lay-up by Fletcher with 3:25 left gave Cousino an early 12-4 lead forcing an early Mercy timeout.
The Patriots, making 8 of 11 shots from the floor, led 18-7 after one quarter with Kate McArthur and Fletcher each scoring six.
Mercy, meanwhile, committed five first-quarter turnovers and went 3-for-9 from the floor.
Cousino went up by as many as 13 in the second quarter and led 28-20 at halftime thanks to 10 points apiece by Fletcher and McArthur as the Patriots shot 57% from the floor (12 of 21).
In the third quarter, Mercy got within five, 30-25, on a basket by Jackie Bauer with 5:45 to go, but the Patriots upped their advantage to 39-28 as Erin McArthur, Kate’s older sister, converted a put-back just before the horn.
With 6:35 to play in the fourth, Mercy freshman Jess Mruzik scored five straight points to pull the Marlins to within six, 39-33. Mercy then cut it to four, 45-41, on Jenna Schluter’s basket and free throw with only 3:01 remaining.
But the Patriots held on, getting a key block with 1:19 to go by Fletcher on drive to the basket by Chloe Godbold and the Miss Basketball runner-up made two free throws just six seconds later to make it 47-41 to help seal the win.
“It was a miscommunication, we were supposed to switch, but we didn’t switch,” Fletcher said of the pivotal defensive stop. “And instead of getting off and letting her Godbold get in for the lay-up and have this game potentially get a little closer, or potentially overtime, I decided to go for the block. I’m pretty long for my size and I just try and use that to my advantage.”
Godbold scored 13 for the Marlins, while Schluter, who got into second-half foul trouble, added 10 along with Bauer.
“We were pressing and a couple of times they hurt us over the top on our press, but that’s obviously something you’re going to risk when you press,” Mercy coach Gary Morris said. “I thought we really battled. They’re a tough team because they have that ability when things kind of break down or for them being pushed a little bit, Fletcher can make a play. That’s what that type of player can do, which is make a play when a lot of other people can’t.”