EAST LANSING – Things could not have gone smoother for No. 2 Flint Hamady in the first half of its Class C semifinal game against No. 1 Ypsilanti Arbor Prep.
The Hawks played excellent defense and broke the press with ease.
Then the third quarter began, and the Hamady players forgot how to break a press and their 16-point lead began to dissipate before their eyes.
“We were in the heat of the moment, trying to get up the floor and trying to score,” said Hamady’s Aaliah Hill (16 points, 13 rebounds). “But we had to listen to our coach. We were in the lead, so everything was in our favor. We just had to play and pass the ball and keep on working.”
That is precisely what the Hawks did today, hanging on to post a 50-46 victory. They will play Calumet for the Class C title.
Jalisha Terry (14 points), Hamady’s talented point guard, couldn’t believe the stark contract between the two halves.
“At the beginning, we were just patient so it was kind of easy to break it,” she said. “But in the third quarter we kind of lost it. We lost our composure. Their pressure did kind of get us in the third quarter.”
After Hill scored on Hamady’s first possession of the third quarter for that 16-point lead, the Hawks (26-1) managed only one free throw over the next 13 possessions as Arbor Prep (22-4) cut the lead to seven heading into the fourth quarter.
“We had to be patient,” Terry said. “We had to slow it down and play defense to get the lead back up.”
Arbor Prep got to within two points with Hamady committing 12 second half turnovers.
Ypsilanti Arbor Prep players console each other after the 50-46 loss in the Class C State Semifinal matchup with Flint Hamady Thursday, March 19, 2015 at the Breslin Center on the campus of Michigan State University. Hamady won 50-46 and advances to the state final.
“That pressure is something different,” said Hamady coach Keith Smith. “We’re known for our pressure. I never thought I’d see the day that somebody would bring the same type of heat that we bring. We kind of lost our composure a little bit and our main thing was we wanted to be patient with attacking their press.”
Krystal Rice (11 points) hit a basket for a six-point Hamady lead with 52 seconds left, and after the Gators closed to with two points she added two free throws with 25 seconds remaining. Arbor Prep failed to score on their final two possessions.
“We didn’t play with a lot of intensity in the first half,” said Arbor Prep coach Rod Wells. “I think we were just caught up in the moment there in the first half and we just didn’t have energy for whatever reason. By the time we made adjustments and got energized, you’ve used a lot of energy to come back.”
Nastassja Chambers led Arbor Prep with 14 points and hit 6 of 7 shots. The reason she didn’t get more than seven shots was the play of Hamady freshman Sasha Penn.
“That young lady is something special,” Smith said of Penn. “What she doesn’t have in skill she has in heart. Believe me, she does have skill; she’s just young now, a little nervous, but come back in two or three years and you’ll see her running this team.”
Contact Mick McCabe: 313-223-4744 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mickmccabe1.