ST. JOHNS – Very few ball clubs rolled into the Class A district finals as hot as the St. Johns girls basketball team, which won 15 of its past 16 games heading into Friday.
However, its date for the night, the Flushing Raiders, were one of the exceptions, as the state’s No. 9-ranked team marched into St. Johns High School having won 19 straight.
All good things eventually come to an end, and the Redwings did everything they could to postpone their finale at least another week.
Behind a game-high 15 points from sophomore Maddie Maloney, St. Johns simmered down red-hot Flushing, 37-31, to pick up its first district championship since 2005.
“It feels really good. This one feels really good,” St. Johns coach Mark Lasceski said. “I thought it was going to be a battle from the get-go – two very good teams.
“From Day 1, we started way back in November, we’ve been working as a team. And slowly as the season went on, we started buying in to one another and playing for one another. We just did a great job and kept on battling. …And (we saw), together, we can accomplish a lot.”
The Redwings (20-3) had their season ended by the Raiders (19-3), who are the champions of the Flint Metro League, in the district title game last season. Senior Jessica Hafner, who missed last year’s game due to an ACL injury, vividly remembers watching from the bench as her team was eliminated from the postseason.
“The whole game, getting the rebounds, getting the rebounds … That’s all I wanted to do,” said Hafner, who scored eight points in the contest. “I practiced so hard over the summer to get back here after my ACL (injury).
“Just knowing that we had to match their physicality, that’s what I was there for.”
All season long, St. Johns has been a team that’s taken pride in its defensive abilities, according to Maloney. And Friday night might have been its most stout performance of the year.
The CAAC Red co-champion Redwings forced Flushing into its second lowest point total of the season, while holding senior forward Clare Glowniak, a Bowling Green signee, to just six points.
“They can score from anywhere and we knew that we’d have to stop them at certain times, and we’d have to go on runs if we wanted to win the game,” Maloney said. “We knew it was going to be a defensive-minded game. Coach put us in really good positions this week at practice to make the defensive stops and be there to help each other out.”
St. Johns, which didn’t trail in the game, denied the Raiders of any offensive consistency, as Flushing failed to put together a scoring run greater than five points on the night. The Flint Metro League champs went on a 5-0 and 4-0 run in the third quarter, but the Redwings immediately countered with quick spurts of their own.
Junior Jamie Carroll pitched in with seven points for St. Johns.
The Redwings, who finished the regular season just outside the Associated Press rankings, will take on tomorrow’s winner of Lapeer and Saginaw Arthur Hill Tuesday at Owosso High School.
Contact James L. Edwards III at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JLEdwardsIII.