Talented Southfield-Lathrup hosted Grosse Pointe South Tuesday – which meant facing South’s Cierra Rice, one of the top players in the state.
Rice, a four-year starter, and South lost in the championship game her freshman and sophomore years.
But none of that mattered to sophomore forward Deja Church and the Hoop Squad, the Lathrup Chargers’ other nickname.
Lathrup dominated the first and third quarters, improving to 15-1 with a 56-54 victory.
Lathrup nearly blew a 10-point lead in the fourth.
Rice’s three at the buzzer ended her night with 20 points, as South was better in the second and fourth quarters.
“It’s good for us to play a team like that this time of the year,” said junior Antoinette Miller, who led Lathrup with 18 points. “We still have to get better defensively.”
Church and 6-foot-2 Taiye Bello each scored 11 points. Twin Kehinde Bello added six.
Aliezza Brown scored 18 points for South (12-4).
Members of defending Class A champion Birmingham Marian watched from the stands as the Chargers showed they should be a tough out when the district playoffs begin in a few weeks. Lathrup hasn’t lost to a Michigan team this season.
“We started the season playing five away games,” coach Michele Marshall said. “Playing Grosse Pointe South at this point in the season was perfect. Kevin (Richard) needed something competitive, and it pushed and challenged us.”
The Chargers’ speed and athleticism were evident early as they raced to an 8-2 lead, with Church scoring four early.
Two time-outs later, Richard and his team trailed, 14-2. South already had five turnovers.
“They’re so good in transition, and early on we turned it over,” Richard said. “They got some easy buckets, and we didn’t jam the ball and they got out.”
Rice scored her first points on two free throws with 1:10 left in the first quarter, but the Chargers were comfortably ahead, 19-4, after one.
South regained its composure to start the second quarter, going on a 13-4 run to get within 23-17 on a lay-up by Rice.
Brown, South’s other four-year starter, scored nine second-quarter points, helping the Blue Devils close the gap to 25-24 by halftime.
Lathrup started the second half as it did the first.
The Chargers scored the first 10 points to extend their lead to 35-24 after Church made a technical foul shot when Richard argued a nonfoul call on Rice.
Lathrup netted 17 points in the third to lead, 42-32.
South cut the lead in half on a three-pointer by Brown and a rebound basket by Beanna Ames with 4:54 left. But Lathrup answered with five straight points, an offensive rebound basket by Bello giving the Chargers a 49-39 lead.
Contact Perry A. Farrell: 313-222-2555 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @farrellperry.