EAST LANSING – Flint Powers Catholic stood in the way for a long time. Then Detroit Country Day. Last season, Dearborn Divine Child stopped Goodrich one game short of its first championship chance.
So although the Martians talked early this season about remaining hungry despite their recent success, it’s hard to believe losing that drive was ever a possibility.
Goodrich was on the edge of elite then. But Saturday’s 60-53 win over Grand Rapids Catholic Central gave the Martians both their first MHSAA title and a final boost into that group of teams considered the state's best regardless of class.
It didn’t come easy. But it seemed nearly inevitable after the team advanced to the Quarterfinals in 2010 and the Semifinals a season ago.
“When we went into that huddle, Coach was speaking and we’re like, just hold your heads high. We’re fighting. We want this,” Goodrich senior Frankie Joubran said. “Because what it comes down to is who wants it more. I guess it showed."
Saturday’s Final was Goodrich’s first. The Martians, ranked No. 1 in Class B heading into the tournament, finished 28-0.
But just because Goodrich knocked off the reigning champion in the Semifinal, beating Grand Rapids Catholic (24-4) was anything but a formality.
Cougars seniors Shellis Hampton and Tiesha Stokes were in their third championship game in four seasons, and going for the 100th win of their four-year varsity careers. Stokes had 19 points and 11 rebounds Saturday and Hampton had 12 points and six assists.
After trailing by two at halftime, the Cougars led 40-39 with a quarter to play.
“We had a lot of things that didn’t go our way,” Goodrich coach Jason Gray said. “But eventually, we had that last run in us.”
Grand Rapids Catholic increased its lead to five with 5:32 to play. But the Martians finished on a 9-2 run thanks to scoring from four players over the final 2:07.
“We were pretty even on a lot of things, but a couple of possessions we missed some rebounds, and I think that killed us,” Grand Rapids Catholic coach Colleen Lamoreaux-Tate said. “It’s so back and forth, back and forth, and we needed to get some rebounds. It’s a one possession game all the time.”
Joubran led Goodrich with 16 points and junior guard Aketra Sevillian added 13.
Seven seniors will graduate from a team that finished 51-1 over the last two seasons. And the Martians also had a deeper inspiration to finish on top this season.
Longtime administrator Al Martus remains a legend in Goodrich and was close to both Gray and some of the team’s leaders. He began battling pancreatic cancer a year ago and died over the summer.
Photos of Goodrich’s state champions hang in the hallway outside the gym. So does a large picture of Martus. And next to that is a blank spot soon to be occupied by the team he provided with so much.
“It was weird, but we didn’t talk about it a lot as a team. But it was always there,” Gray said. “I don’t know if we kept quiet because we didn’t want to end up in the same situation or feel bad again.
“He was a great man, a great boss to me, and great mentor to the girls. And I know he’d be very proud of the effort they put forth this year.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Goodrich celebrates its first MHSAA championship. (Photo courtesy of Terry McNamara Photography.)