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.)
STAMBAUGH — Danica Shamion has enjoyed plenty of success in track & field throughout her high school athletic career.
The West Iron County senior is also quite successful in basketball.
Shamion joined the 1,000-point club here Jan. 23 while scoring 34 in a 63-60 loss to Norway.
“That really felt good,” she said after last week’s 93-41 win over Bessemer on Senior Night. “I’m glad I was able to do that at home. Although, it would have been even better had we won that game.”
The Wykons scored five in double digits against the Speedgirls, led by senior Siena Stine with 20 points. Junior center Sidney Storti added 17 points, and Shamion finished with 16 points and 17 assists.
“Sidney is a real asset to our team,” Shamion said. “I can see the floor pretty well, and the other girls are doing a pretty good job getting open. This was our last home game. It definitely meant something to us.”
Shamion, an All-Upper Peninsula Division 1-3 first-team selection a year ago, twisted her ankle in a season-opening 47-40 triumph over Iron Mountain and missed the next three games.
West Iron was 1-3 going into the holiday break before getting back on track with a 42-28 victory over Kingsford on Jan. 2. That enabled the Wykons to improve to 4-3 before dropping six of their next seven games.
West Iron, which was 5-9 after dropping a 73-55 decision at Negaunee, had won four in a row prior to Thursday’s 46-44 loss at Calumet. But the Wykons bounced back with a 51-49 win over Ishpeming Westwood on Tuesday to get back to .500 at 10-10.
“We were trying to forge our identity and weren’t hitting our shots (earlier in the season),” Shamion said. “Although, we’ve been playing better defense lately. We’re pretty good one-on-one and usually play man-to-man. We try to run the floor and score in transition.
“Negaunee is probably the best team we’ve seen this year, although Ishpeming and Houghton are also very good and Calumet and Westwood are tough,” she added.
In track & field, Shamion set U.P. Division 2 Finals record in the 200-meter dash (26.34 seconds) and 400 (57.18) last season. She also won the 100 (12.79) and placed second in high jump at 4 feet, 10 inches. She is a three-time Finals champion in all three sprint races.
Shamion also made the all-U.P. Volleyball Dream Team in the fall.
She will continue on the track at Central Michigan University after she graduates from West Iron this spring.
“I didn’t know much about their program, but I was interested in what they had to offer,” she said. “The girls on the team are nice, which is part of the reason why I chose Central. It’s a relief to have that decided.”
John Vrancic has covered high school sports in the Upper Peninsula since joining the Escanaba Daily Press staff in 1985. He is known most prominently across the peninsula for his extensive coverage of cross country and track & field that frequently appears in newspapers from the Wisconsin border to Lake Huron. He received the James Trethewey Award for Distinguished Service in 2015 from the Upper Peninsula Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association.
PHOTOS (Top) West Iron’s Danica Shamion (24) blocks a shot during her team’s game at Ishpeming on Jan. 15. (Middle) Shamion maintains possession of the ball. (Photos by Cara Kamps.)