Flint Hamady coach Keith Smith made sure he brought assistant coach Raasheedah Harris into the interview room after the Hawks’ heart-stopping 50-46 victory over top-ranked Ypsilanti Arbor Prep on Thursday at the Breslin Center.
Harris is an assistant only because she suffered a season-ending knee injury Jan. 24. The senior now is just a cheerleader and coach.
She was in the stands in 2010 when the Hawks won their second of two straight Class C championships.
“It’s hard watching, but then I realize the team has my back, so it’s not that tough to watch,” she said. “I was in the stands the last time they won it.”
Smith wanted the press to know how important she was.
“She can really play,” he said. “Before she went down with a knee injury she was our third-leading scorer. She’s a dynamite player. She was second in rebounding. We had to play small ball this year because we lost some players due to transfers and some decided they didn’t want to play.
“She had been a point guard throughout her high school career, but due to the fact that we had another good point guard in Jalisha Terry, we were able to play small ball with Raasheedah at our power forward.”
Senior Aaliah Hill, who finished with 16 points and 13 rebounds after getting Prep’s Karlee Morris in early foul trouble, has Harris’ back.
“I told her in practice everything we do we’re going to do for you,” Hill said. “I told her I feel bad that she can’t play, but as a team we’re going to keep working to get the win. We try to motivate her and let her know we have confidence in her. I can’t wait to wake up in the morning and be in the state championship game.”
■ You better smile: Hamady sophomore Krystal Rice had done yeoman’s work before fouling out in the fourth quarter. She made two free throws in the fourth with the team up two with 25.6 left, finishing with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
As she sat dejectedly on the bench after fouling out, Smith said something to her, and she immediately smiled.
“I told her if she didn’t lift her head up and smile, she wouldn’t play Saturday,” he said.
■ Team first, family second: Calumet coach Jeff Twardzik had to make a tough decision. Laingsburg was quicker than expected, so he needed to make a change.
That resulted in his daughter, senior center Ellen Twardzik, sitting the second half in favor of Janie Torola, a 6-foot-2 imposing presence against the Wolfpack. Torola was great with nine points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots.
“We only saw them on tape and that was their last game, and they were quicker than we thought,” coach Twardzik said.
Was it a tough move to make?
“No, not a bit,” he said. “Ellen and I realize that she’s my daughter, but when we come in here, I’m the coach and she’s my player, and I’m going to do what’s best for the team. She buys into that.”
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.