EAST LANSING — Manchester’s McKenna Erkfritz has made 48% of her shots this season, 6% higher than the team average.
But in the first quarter of the first semifinal game in school history, Erkfritz was 0-for-6 and Manchester was 1-for-19 (5.3%).
“I wasn’t worried,” Erkfritz said. “I just looked up at my dad and he said keep shooting and I knew if I kept working hard they’d go in.”
Eventually they did go in for Erkfritz and her teammates Thursday as Manchester defeated Riverview Richard, 53-46, in a Class C semifinal game at Breslin Center.
The Manchester players were not caught off guard by a junk defense. Richard had knocked the Dutchmen (26-1) out of last year’s tournament.
“We knew what we were getting ourselves into,” Erkfritz said. “We had a hard time with it last year and this year we kept watching tape over and over again. We know that if we put more than one person inside they were going to have to pick and choose who to guard.”
Richard (16-8) was able to hold Maddie Collins scoreless, but Erkfritz scored 19 points and Jessie Manders added 16.
Manchester trailed only 9-3 after the first quarter because it played excellent defense, forcing Richard into five turnovers in the first quarter and 23 for the game.
Manchester forced six more turnovers in the second quarter and took a 19-18 lead into intermission as Richard struggled with the pressure defense.
“The purpose of a press is to make the team that you’re pressing make mental mistakes and that’s what we did,” said Richard’s Ashley Henderson. “We overthought it. We had turnovers that affected the way that we played and kind of stepped out of our game a little bit.”
Henderson scored a game-high 21 points, but she was limited to 14 shots, which was the point of Manchester’s game plan.
“One of the big things is we said we always had to have a body on her — put our best defender on her,” said Manchester coach Cori Kastel. “Henderson’s good. You’re not going to stop a kid like that. She’s an athlete; she’s a scorer.”
The Dutch limited Henderson to only two shots (both makes) in the third quarter and frustrated Richard, causing more turnovers.
“As we started applying more pressure all they did was look for her,” Manders said. “As long as we had somebody glued to her it forced the other guards to dribble, and we had good ball pressure to get the steal.”
Manchester began the fourth quarter with a 14-4 spurt to wrap up its spot in Saturday’s 4 p.m. Class C final against Saginaw Nouvel.
“It’s a bittersweet feeling,” Erkfritz said. “I don’t want it to be done, but this is my ideal game — my last game I’d ever want to play. A couple of years down the line I realized we had the potential and this year from the very first game we knew we had a chance to get here and we weren’t going to stop until we were here.”
Contact Mick McCabe: 313-223-4744 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @mickmccabe1.