By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
EAST LANSING – The last time Grosse Pointe South visited the Breslin Center, it came within 12 seconds of winning its first MHSAA girls basketball championship.
And there’s no hiding that the Blue Devils players and coaches have been planning for this weekend since just about the time they left East Lansing after falling by a point to Grand Haven in last season's Class A Final.
Grosse Pointe South earned a rematch with the Buccaneers by downing Dexter 48-29 in Friday’s second Semifinal. They’ll meet in the championship game at noon Saturday.
“Definitely, we have some really painful memories,” Devils senior Claire DeBoer said. “Just getting that taste last year, (having it go) down to 10 seconds left, we want it even more this year.”
It’s appeared that way from the start. After falling to Chicago Whitney Young in its first game this winter, South has won 25 straight and entered the tournament ranked No. 2 behind Detroit Martin Luther King – which lost in a Quarterfinal.
Like the Devils last season, Dexter (23-4) was playing Friday for its first championship game berth. But with sophomore guard Cierra Rice leading the South attack, the Dreadnaughts never got much footing while falling behind 27-10 by halftime.
“We haven’t faced a team that has that many quality players all season long, and it took us out of some things that we tried to do,” Dexter coach Mike Bavineau said. “We wanted to attack as much as we could against their pressure. Sometimes when a team speeds you up and makes you play a little bit faster than you’re used to, you tend to revert back to things you were able to do against a team not of this caliber. I think that made it difficult for us.”
DeBoer and Rice were South’s leading scorers in last season’s Final, and Rice scored 21 points Friday. The third player Bavineau referred to was junior guard Bre’nae Andrews, who followed with 16 points.
Andrews also has had her sights set on getting back to Breslin – as a member of Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett last year, she was unable to play in the Class C Semifinal or Final after suffering an injury earlier in that tournament run.
Senior forward Emma Kill led the Dreadnaughts with 12 points and five rebounds. This season’s run included Dexter’s first Regional title since 1998 and first District championship since 2004.
Rice did most of her damage Thursday driving the lane and made 9 of her 13 shots. She admitted she might have a tougher time against Grand Haven’s 6-foot-5 Abby Cole – but is prepared to adjust.
“My strongest ability is to go to the basket. I probably won’t do it the same way (Saturday); I’ll probably try to shoot a lot more jumpers (because) it’s harder to go up against Cole,” Rice said. “I’ve got to change up my game a little bit, but that’s not a problem for me. I try to work on that.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Grosse Pointe South defenders trap the ball during Friday's Class A Semifinal. (Middle) South's Aliezza Brown had five points and three rebounds in 23 minutes off the bench. (Photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photo.)