The Warren Cousino girls basketball team challenged itself this season, playing defending Class A state champ Birmingham Marian in Game 2.
Marian played like a state champ, and Cousino … didn’t. Marian won, 66-24.
“I knew we didn’t play. It was almost like we were caught in headlights,” Cousino coach Mike Lee said. “I knew if we’re going to be as good as we intend to be and what people think we’re going to be and what I think we’re going to be, it was an attitude thing. We have to be ready to win the big game.”
A 42-point beatdown that early in the season can have lingering effects on a team, the kind that can last an entire season.
But that is where Lee’s attitude thing comes in.
“We grew up a little bit,” Lee said. “We realized that these opportunities to play ranked teams and a chance to prove ourselves on a bigger stage aren’t going to happen often.”
One happened last week, and the Patriots responded in amazing fashion.
Cousino took sole possession of the MAC Red lead when it defeated Grosse Pointe South, 45-43, on Tuesday, handing South its first conference loss since 2012.
Most upstart teams would need to play a perfect game to beat a team like South, led by Cierra Rice. But there was nothing perfect about Cousino’s sensational sophomore Kierra Fletcher collecting two fouls in the first quarter, a third early in the second quarter and a fourth early in the third quarter.
“We had some girls that righted the ship a little bit and gave us some quality minutes on her behalf,” Lee said.
Still, Fletcher, 5-feet-9, was able to contribute 20 points and 14 rebounds to offset another terrific performance by Rice (24 points).
“She gave Rice a run for her money,” Lee said. “Even with foul trouble at times, she looked like the best girl on the floor, and I think Cierra Rice is phenomenal.”
Fletcher, who has a 4.0 grade-point average, is averaging 22 points, 10.7 rebounds, five assists and is a hidden gem. She has a tremendous skill set and, like Rice, she attacks the basket with authority.
“She just has a natural ability to get to the hoop whenever she wants,” Lee said. “I think she could get to the hoop every single time, but she wants to get her teammates involved and find the shooters in the corner and things like that.”
As a freshman, Fletcher went to the free-throw line 170 times and is on pace to do that again. After Rice tied the game with a three-pointer, Fletcher went to the line with 5 seconds left and nailed two free throws for the victory.
Senior Haley Hoffman, who signed with Siena Heights, is another capable guard and played a key role in the victory over South.
“Especially when Kierra was out, we had that intangible that Haley can play the point,” Lee said. “We almost roll with two point guards, and whoever brings it up, brings it up.”
Lee had high hopes for the Patriots before the season, but the loss to Marian was deflating. But Cousino has played well since, and the victory over South should do wonders for the Patriots’ psyche as they attempt to prove they can be an elite team.
“It gave us the confidence, especially after the early Marian loss, that our goals and expectations and dreams — we’re close to achieving them with eight games left before the state tournament,” Lee said. “We should be thinking that we belong in the conversation.”
What’s up at Oak Park?
Only three days after taking No. 5 Clarkston to overtime before losing, things took a dramatic turn at Oak Park.
Second-year coach Bryant Tipton was not on the bench Friday when Oak Park defeated Troy, 50-48, and juniors Kelvon Fuller and Devin Mills did not play.
Fuller transferred to Oak Park two years ago after his freshman year at Detroit Cody, where he played for Tipton. Mills transferred from Ferndale in the fall. Mills was one of six transfers who became eligible for the Clarkston game.
Acting as coach for the Troy game was athletic director and football coach Greg Carter.
Neither Carter nor Tipton responded to requests for comment.
“They’re being very tight-lipped about it,” Troy coach Gary Fralick said. “The only thing I heard was that Tipton was suspended, and then I found out Fuller and the other kid were not playing. They were there. They were not dressed. They were either sitting on the bench or sitting in the bleachers.
“I have no idea what’s going on. All I know is, when we played them, they were still pretty darn good.”
Contact Mick McCabe: 313-223-4744 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @mickmccabe1.
Call in your results to the Free Press at 313-222-6660 or 800-678-6728 anytime after 6 p.m. weekdays or 3 p.m.
Keep up to date with high school sports all year at usatodayhss.com/market/detroit, on Facebook at Detroit Free Press – High School Sports, and by following @freeppreps on Twitter.
WE’RE NUMBER 1
Free Press sports writer Mick McCabe lists the No. 1 boys and girls basketball teams in each class.
YPSILANTI ARBOR PREP
MT. PLEASANT SACRED HEART