Cousino Ends Historic Run Atop Class A

March 19, 2016

By Bill Khan
Special for Second Half

EAST LANSING — Kierra Fletcher hit the floor with her body, one of the hazards when driving to the basket, then slapped it with her hands when she realized her shot had fallen.

She got up and pumped her right fist in the air before going to the line and making the free throw.

These were just three of the 198 points she scored during Warren Cousino's eight-game run through the MHSAA Class A Girls Basketball Tournament, but they were arguably the most important.

A championship that seemed guaranteed when the Patriots held a 19-point third-quarter lead was slipping through the Patriots' grasp.

Detroit Martin Luther King had all of the momentum and a hot hand in senior guard Micaela Kelly, who virtually single-handedly willed the Crusaders back from the abyss.

A lead that had been chopped to five points was back to double figures at 57-47 when Fletcher made her 3-point play with 5:06 left in the Class A Final on Saturday at the Breslin Center. While King made one final push, coming back from double digits again was too much to ask of the Crusaders, who scored four points in the final seven seconds but ran out of time in a 67-65 loss to Cousino.

Fletcher, who had 27 points and averaged 28.4 over Cousino's last five games, picked up her fourth foul with 44.5 seconds left in the third quarter, then missed two free throws after her return. Her pent-up frustration was released when she made the huge momentum-stalling basket shortly after going 0 for 2 at the line.

"When I got my fourth foul, I was a little rattled," said Fletcher, a junior guard who is already being touted as a Miss Basketball favorite for next season. "Then I came back in the game and missed two free throws when it was crunch time. Once I got that and-one, it lifted my spirits up so we could go and win this game."

By holding off a furious rally by one of the state's most decorated programs, Cousino completed an unlikely championship run. The Patriots had been as far as the Regional Finals only once, losing 50-28 to Mount Clemens L'Anse Creuse North in 1979. They'd won only eight District titles before this season, going 1-8 in Regional games.

Their breakthrough moment came in the Regional championship game, where they beat two-time defending Class A champion Bloomfield Hills Marian, 43-39. Suddenly, Cousino girls basketball was on the radar.

"We figured, hey, if we can beat this team, we can beat any team," said forward Mackenzie Anderson, the team's only senior, after scoring 20 points Saturday. "Our defense was strong. We just didn't want to be done. We wanted one more day together."

Cousino (23-4) joined the 1999 Utica team as the only Class A champions from Macomb County in the 43-year history of the girls basketball tournament.

"Honestly, our team believed this was a realistic goal back in November," Fletcher said. "Our group message name was 'State champs, 2016.' I think at the time, even our parents didn't think we were going to be this far. We were the only ones who believed until we got to where we are today."

To earn their place in history, the Patriots had to knock off a King program that had more MHSAA Finals appearances (12) than Cousino had District titles (nine). King's last championship, its fifth, came in 2006.

It was Cousino that looked like the program accustomed to the big stage, as the Patriots scored the first five points of the game and built a 31-12 lead with 5:05 left in the second quarter. They outrebounded King 16-3 in the first quarter, grabbing 13 of the game's first 14 boards.

"We played our game in the second half," 33rd-year King coach William Winfield said. "In the first half, not so good. We had some shots that did not fall and drives to the basket that did not go; that was about the size of it. They played an excellent game and were able to get the ball down the floor."

Cousino led 35-19 at halftime, with Fletcher scoring a relatively modest (by her standards) 12 points. Freshman Kate McArthur had nine points on three 3-pointers, while Anderson had eight to help the Patriots dominate the first half. In each of Cousino's previous four games, Fletcher scored more than half of the team's points, including 37 in a 60-45 Semifinal victory over Hudsonville on Friday.

"What's great about this victory is for the first half (Fletcher) played a big role, but there were other people who stepped up today, as well," Cousino coach Mike Lee said. "In a championship game, we said we needed people to step up, and they did. The sacrifice, the heart, the will and the belief — this team believed more than any other team. Once we got to a certain point in the Regionals, we felt good about at least giving this a good shot."

When Cousino began the second half by extending its lead back to 19 points three times, it looked like the fourth quarter would simply become a coronation ceremony for the Patriots.

Kelly had other ideas.

The DePaul-bound guard scored 11 points during the third quarter, as King (24-2) cut the lead to 50-40 heading into the fourth. Despite playing with four fouls, she kept it up in the fourth quarter, scoring 12 more points to finish with a game-high 34. Kelly's total tied the sixth-highest for an MHSAA championship game.

"Since I was supposed to be the leader, I just decided this is my time to put my team on my back before I leave," Kelly said. "I wanted to leave knowing I left it all on the floor."

Kelly, who was 11 for 11 from the line, hit two free throws with 5:53 left to put King back in the game at 52-47.

Fletcher held off the charge by making two free throws with 5:15 left, then making the three-point play with 5:06 to go. King got back to within five points with 1:11 left, but Aubrey Fetzer got a layup off a pass from Anderson on the press break with 1:02 to go.

A basket by King's Tia Tedford, who had 14 points, made it 66-61 with 46 seconds left. Anderson went 1 for 2 from the line with 22.6 seconds to go. King got two free throws from Erica Whitley-Jackson with 7 seconds on the clock to get within four. A shot at the buzzer made it a two-point final.

King was able to reverse the early rebounding discrepancy, trailing only 41-32 in that department by the end, but couldn't overcome its 5 for 31 shooting from 3-point range. Cousino attempted only nine shots from beyond the arc, with McArthur going 4 for 8 to finish with 13 points.

"Today we rushed our threes," Kelly said. "We didn't take our time." 

Click for the full box score.

The Girls Basketball Finals are presented by Sparrow Health System.  

PHOTOS: (Top) The Warren Cousino bench erupts as the final seconds tick off the clock during the Class A Final on Saturday. (Middle) Mackenzie Cook works to get through the Martin Luther King defense on a drive to the hoop.

St. George's Senior Season Filled with Historic Trip, Sizzling 3-Point Shooting

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

May 21, 2024

Delaney St. George helped Kingston reach its first MHSAA Girls Basketball Final this winter – and along the way finished her high school career among the most prolific 3-point shooters in state history.

The four-year varsity senior made 87 3-pointers this season for the Division 4 runner-up Cardinals, good to tie for 10th on the single-season list after she made 93 as a junior to rank fourth all-time.

She finished her Kingston career with 290 3-pointers in 793 attempts over 94 games – good for second on the career 3-pointers list.

See below for more recent additions to the MHSAA girls basketball record book, and click on the heading to see the record book in full.

Girls Basketball

Hemlock’s 18-6 run this season was fueled in part by more successful 3-point shooting. The Huskies made single-season lists with 170 3-pointers and 552 attempts, and also for making 14 3-pointers Jan. 5 against St. Louis.

Senior Mia McLaughlin made nine of 15 3-point shots for Frankenmuth in a Feb. 6 win over Birch Run as the Eagles made the team record book list with 15 3-pointers total. They also were added for 14 3-pointers in a Feb. 20 win over Bay City John Glenn. McLaughlin will continue her career at Ferris State.

McBain sophomore Peyton Grant scored all 27 of her points Jan. 17 against Houghton Lake on nine 3-pointers to make the single-game list in that category.

Seniors Autumn Tremblay and Ceara LeBlanc earned Brimley’s first girls basketball record book listings this season. Both made single-game lists in a Feb. 27 win over Harbor Springs Harbor Light Christian – Tremblay scored 21 points during the first quarter and LeBlanc had 16 steals for the game – and LeBlanc also was added for 141 steals total over 25 games this past winter.

Reed City’s run at the Central State Activities Association title this winter was fueled in part by 3-point shooting. The Coyotes finished one game out of first, but made the records with 517 3-point attempts over 24 games – and just missed the made 3-pointers list connecting on 143.

Howell sophomore Gabrielle Piepho added her third record book listing over her first two seasons this winter making 89.2 percent of her free throw attempts to rank eighth on that single-season list. Howell as a team also made the 3-point attempts list with 536 over 25 games, and also just missed the 3-pointers made list with 146.

Saline finished the 2023-24 season among the all-time leading 3-point shooters again, this time with 192 – 14th-most for one season – in 587 attempts over 24 games. Sophomore Keira Roehm led the way with 78 3-pointers, tying for 21st on that list.

Junior Tamerah Peterson led Sterling Heights Parkway Christian to a District title this season, providing a record-setting defensive boost in addition to her offensive skills. She finished with 173 steals – eighth-most for one season – over 21 games.

Niles Brandywine reached Breslin Center this season with another stellar distance shooting display, making the record book with both 186 3-pointers and 610 attempts from beyond the arc in finishing Division 3 runner-up.

Alie Bisballe capped her career at Lake City this winter by helping her team reach the Division 3 Semifinal at Breslin Center – and by reaching the MHSAA girls basketball record book in two categories. The 6-foot-4 post player made the lists with 329 rebounds and 188 blocked shots, both in 28 games as Lake City finished 25-3. She will continue her career at Wisconsin.

Ironwood junior Hanna Vaughn will enter her final season next winter already on the career 3-pointers list. She’s made 155 3-pointers over her first three seasons and 70 games on varsity.

PHOTO Kingston’s Delaney St. George (10) pulls up for a shot during the Division 4 Final against Ishpeming.