DELTA TWP. – Taryn McCutcheon lost the ball momentarily, regained possession and then drained a deep 3 as the third quarter was winding down.
Promptly, East Lansing coach Rob Smith greeted her with a hug.
Things have gone that well for the Trojan girls basketball team since the Michigan State-bound point guard arrived from West Virginia in January.
And they continued to go well Friday night.
That 3-pointer was part of a 27-point night for McCutcheon, who led the Trojans to a 57-41 victory over host Waverly in a Class A district championship game at Phil Odlum Gymnasium.
“We’re the district champions of the toughest district in the state of Michigan and that says a lot,” said Smith, whose team also knocked off No. 6-ranked Haslett and CAAC Blue runner-up Grand Ledge on its way to the district title. “Our team was transformed when Taryn McCutcheon took the floor for us in January. She made everybody around her better.
“Moving forward I’m just so excited of the potential of this team because we have yet to jell. There’s been issues that have kind of kept us down and some adversity, but the kids are just now starting to realize their full potential and the chemistry is starting to come around. You still haven’t seen the best of East Lansing yet moving forward. We’ve got a big week ahead of us in the regional at Mason, and we feel like we can really compete over there. We’re just so happy to be in the conversation.”
Senior Danni Hanson added 12 points and sophomore Amelia McNutt added 10 to help CAAC Blue champion East Lansing (17-6) capture its first district title since 2012 and advance to next week’s regional. Hanson, who is in her fourth season on varsity, relished winning a district title for the first time in her varsity hoops career.
“This district title means so much to me because I missed out on one my freshman year and I’ve never had this experience,” Hanson said. “I think the rest of the team feels the same way. This is a new experience and we’re just happy to be a part of it.”
East Lansing took control in the second quarter behind McCutcheon. The senior had 15 points in the quarter as the Trojans pushed their lead to double digits. The closest Waverly got was within 10 points with 2:39 remaining, but McCutcheon, McNutt and Deasia Miracle hit free throws to help close out the win.
Sophomores Isabella Pizzo and Jazlynn Wilcox each had 10 points to lead Waverly, which ends the season with a 14-8 record. First-year Warriors coach John Schweitzer is encouraged about his program and believes its upset win over DeWitt in Wednesday’s district semifinal is a good foundation to build on.
“We’re really excited about the program and the direction it’s moving,” Schweitzer said. “We do have a lot coming back. We’ve got some young players and some freshmen next year that are outstanding players. We’ll be good, but it’s going to be a lot of hard work in the offseason and in the summer.”
Contact Brian Calloway at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @brian_calloway.