GRAND RAPIDS — Anyone from Freeland who wasn’t convinced Miss Basketball Rickea Jackson was the real deal definitely does now.
On the first possession of the second quarter, the 6-foot-3 Detroit Edison guard caught an alley-oop. She then caught Freeland’s ensuing in-bound pass and banked it in with one smooth motion.
That’s five points in one second for the Mississippi State signee.
Jackson followed it up with another make on the next trip up the floor, and she was in double figures before the game was nine minutes old.
The trouble was, Jackson wasn’t Edison’s only weapon, and the Pioneers had too many for the Falcons and won their third consecutive state championship, 77-58, Saturday at Calvin College.
Jackson, in the final game of her illustrious career, finished with 28 points.
To list some: Gabrielle Elliott scored 15 points and also finished an alley-oop; Damiya Hageman had 13 points, including 3 triples; Keiarra Jenkins drilled an NBA-length 3; 6-foot freshman Ruby Whitehorn snared a rebound above a Freeland player’s head and went coast-to-coast for a lay-up; Deshelle Farver didn’t miss any of her shot attempts. The team made 7-of-9 3-pointers in the second half.
“I don’t even know where to start with this group and what we’ve accomplished together as one unit,” coach Monique Brown said. “I’m just so happy to be up here with these ladies and to say I’m their coach.”
The championship is the third in as many years for the Pioneers. They won the past two in Class C before voluntarily moving up to Division 2. The bad news for other teams in Michigan? Jackson’s the Pioneers’ only senior. Should they win another title next year, they’d equal the longest streak in state history, set by Flint Northern in 1978-81.
Edison is the first team to win three consecutive championships since Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes earned a trio of Class D titles in 2010-12. Birmingham Detroit Country Day (2002-04 and 1997-1999), Portland St. Patrick (1994-96), Leland (1980-82) are the only others besides Flint Northern to accomplish the feat.
“I hope that I have left a huge legacy,” Jackson said. “They’re sending me to go off to college with three state champions and I can’t do nothing but thank them for that.”
Edison shot 53.7 percent from the floor and limited the Falcons to 34.7 percent. The Pioneers — which had seven players taller than Freeland’s tallest, 5-foot-11 Taylor Bakos — out-rebounded the Falcons 33-24.
Freeland (24-3) showed some grind, putting up more points than any other of Edison’s postseason opponent, and became the first team in the tournament to finish within 27 points of the Pioneers.
They made eight 3-pointers and all but one of their 17 free-throw attempts. They had three players in double figures: Alyssa Argyle (18 points), Kadyn Blanchard (16) and Autumn Kloha (11).
Despite the one-sided outcome, Freeland players said they enjoyed the moment in the spotlight.
“I think it was really important that we went into this game and finished out very strong,” Kloha said. “It was very exciting to play against Miss Basketball, and they were very, very good and competitive, and we stuck together throughout the whole game.”