By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
GRAND RAPIDS – Give Muskegon a ton of credit. After 11 minutes Thursday, it’s Division 1 Semifinal at Van Noord Arena was all but over.
And Southfield Arts & Technology knew the feeling.
Two years ago, the Warriors found themselves down 20 points in the third quarter of their Semifinal against East Kentwood. They pulled all the way back to within two of the lead before ultimately losing to the Falcons by four.
This time, Southfield A&T got up 18 points three minutes into the second quarter at Van Noord Arena. But while Muskegon charged back to within two of the lead with 53 seconds to play, the Warriors prevailed 54-50 to earn their first championship game berth.
“Being (at the Semifinals) before, it helped me keep my composure and mentally stay in it. Because two years ago, we were down by a lot at the half, and we had to come back with the same fight that Muskegon tried to put against us,” A&T junior guard Cheyenne McEvans said. “I understand what Muskegon was trying to do, and how East Kentwood held us off is how we had to hold them off from coming back.
“We hung on at the end because we just wanted it, and we all just had to talk to each other and keep each other in the game. I try to take really good pride in keeping my teammates involved mentally, and keep their heads up. So I just told them, the run that they’re going on, we’ve just got to hold it – hold it together to the end of the game.”
The Warriors (24-1) will face Saginaw Heritage in Saturday’s 12:15 p.m. championship game, seeking the first title for the 3-year-old school and also the first for one of the schools that merged to create A&T since Southfield Lathrup’s 2005 Class A win.
Neither team Thursday scored for nearly the first three minutes. But once the Warriors got started, they put up nine straight points over 80 seconds. During the second quarter, they connected on 64 percent of their shots from the floor to carry a 29-13 lead into halftime.
But the Big Reds – making their first Semifinal appearance – began to show signs of revival. They had missed their first 13 shots and 18 of 19 on the way to the 21-3 deficit. But beginning with senior Alyza Winston’s basket with 4:30 to play in the first half, Muskegon made 44 percent of its shots from the floor the rest of the way.
“We’re really a second-half team, if you look at the Regional games, the District games, we came out second half with a whole different energy,” Winston said. “That’s really just us.
“I feel like this game we just needed it more in the first half than we had it, but that’s normal for us.”
A&T still led 44-31 with a quarter to play. Muskegon junior guard De’shonna Day’s basket with seven minutes to play made the deficit single digits again at 44-35. That started a 17-8 run, and a Day 3-pointer pulled the Big Reds to within 52-50 with 53 seconds to play.
Muskegon (21-5) got the ball back on a jumpball. But A&T did hold on – two more times. First junior center Jasmine Worthy blocked off the lane to force a travel as the Big Reds looked to tie. After senior Soleil Barnes made two free throws with six seconds left to push the lead back to four, the Warriors got a steal to end the game.
“Having been to the final four, and won a championship before, I know defense is really going to make a difference,” said A&T coach Michele Marshall, who led the Lathrup title run. “You can score a ton of points, but ultimately you’re going to have to get some stops.
“When we play defense the way we did in that last possession, it becomes very difficult to get easy shots, and all we’re trying to do is make the most difficult shot with our defense.”
Senior forward Alexis Johnson led A&T with 18 points and 12 rebounds, while McEvans and Barnes both finished with 12 points. Sophomore guard Kayiona Willis had five assists.
Winston, a Miss Basketball Award finalist this season, finished with 25 points, and Day had 13 and seven rebounds. Senior center Nia Miskel grabbed 10 rebounds.
Now A&T gets the rare opportunity to avenge its lone defeat. The Warriors fell to Heritage 45-43 on Dec. 8 at the Ypsilanti Arbor Prep Icebreaker Invitational.
“I feel like this is the game we can use to cross out our record, if we can get this win,” Johnson said. “We want to come out with a clean record and we feel we’re number one in the state, and this game will prove it.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Southfield Arts & Technology’s Alexis Johnson pushes the ball upcourt during Friday’s Division 1 Semifinal win over Muskegon. (Middle) The Big Reds’ De’shonna Day moves the ball around the perimeter.
We finish our “Title IX at 50” this week highlighting the latest Detroit Edison basketball star – who will no doubt continue to dazzle now that she’s moved on to the college ranks.
Ruby Whitehorn became the fourth-straight Miss Basketball Award winner from Edison last winter on the way to leading the Pioneers to the Division 2 championship. The 6-foot guard also was a contributor off the bench as a freshman when Edison won the Division 2 title in 2019, and the Pioneers were 23-0 in 2020 when that season was ended due to COVID-19.
Edison was 80-4 total over her four seasons on varsity. Whitehorn is continuing her career at Clemson University.
"It means everything to me, but it’s because of everyone who got me to this point – my coaches and teammates and (everyone else).
"They’ve just helped me along the way, and it feels good to give back to them."
The MHSAA will conclude its yearlong celebration of Title IX with this weekend’s 25th Women in Sports Leadership Conference in Lansing. The event remains the first, largest and longest-running of its kind in the country.
This year’s conference is themed “Power of the Past – Force of the Future” and is again sold out, as Crowne Plaza Lansing West will be filled Sunday and Monday mostly by Michigan high school female student-athletes but also administrators, coaches, officials, trainers and others who contribute to school sports.
Second Half's weekly Title IX Celebration posts are sponsored by Michigan Army National Guard.
Previous Title IX at 50 Spotlights
Sept. 27: Eliana Bommarito's Story - Read
Sept. 20: Anna Tracey's Story - Read
Sept. 13: Lola Korpi's Story - Read
Sept. 6: Meah Bajt's Story - Read
Aug. 30: Morgan Brunner's Story - Read
Aug. 23: Ava Brizard's Story - Read
Aug. 16: Paige Miller's Story - Read
Aug. 9: Gracie Olsen's Story - Read
Aug. 2: Maddy Stern's Story - Read
July 26: Reese Miller's Story - Read
July 19: Macy Irelan's Story - Read
July 12: Bridget Boczar's Story - Read
July 5: Ella Boose's Story - Read
June 28: Kaila Jackson's Story - Read
June 23: We Celebrate Our Past, We Look Forward to Our Future - Read
June 21: Assistant Directors Have Been Difference Makers - Read
June 14: Girls Lacrosse Finals Officials Set Empowering Example - Read
June 7: From Gymnastics to Wrestling, Girls Opportunities Continue to Grow - Read
May 31: Mumford Sprinter's Magnificent 2006 Final Remains Unmatched - Read
May 24: Scane, Whiteside Alone on 400-Goal, 500-Point Girls Lacrosse Lists - Read
May 17: Over 8 Days in 1988, Pair of Champs Set No. 1 Singles Standard - Read
May 10: Portage Central's Tarpley Scores as State's Superstar, U.S. Soccer Hero - Read
May 3: Prychitko 'Legend In Her Own Time,' Legend for All Time - Read
April 26: Braddock vs. Verdun Still Striding Among All-Time Sprint Matchups - Read
April 19: Holmes' Strikeout Record Rarely Approached, May Be Unbreakable - Read
April 12: Anticipation High as 45,000 Girls Return to Spring Sports - Read
April 5: Regina's Laffey Retiring as Definition of Legendary - Read
March 29: Edison's Whitehorn named 2022 Miss Basketball - Read
March 22: Carney-Nadeau Sets Girls Hoops Standard with 78-Win Streak - Read
March 15: Binder Among Voices Telling Our Story on MHSAA Network - Read
March 8: 28 Years, Thousands of Cheers - Read
March 1: Kearsley Rolls On Among Girls Bowling's Early Successes - Read
Feb. 22: Marquette Ties Record for Swim & Dive Finals Success - Read
Feb. 15: Jaeger's 2004 Winter Run Created Lasting Connection - Read
Feb. 8: Marian's Cicerone to Finish Among All-Time Elite - Read
Feb. 1: WISL Award Honors Builders of State's Girls Sports Tradition - Read
Jan. 25: Decades Later, Edwards' Legend Continues to Grow - Read
Jan. 18: Iron Mountain Completes Championship Climb - Read
Jan. 11: Harrold's Achievement Heralds Growth of Girls Wrestling - Read
Dec. 20: Competitive Cheer Gives Michigan Plenty to Cheer About - Read
Dec. 14: Evelyn's Game Had Plenty of Magic - Read
Dec. 7: Council Term Ends, But Leinaar Leaves Lasting Impact - Read
Nov. 30: Basketball Season Ready to Add to Rich Tradition - Read
Nov. 23: Marysville Builds Winning Streak Yet to be Challenged - Read
Nov. 16: Wroubel Has Championed Girls School Sports from Their Start - Read
Nov. 9: Pioneer's Joyce Legendary in Michigan, National Swim History - Read
Nov. 2: Royal Oak's Finch Leading Way on Football Field - Read
Oct. 26: Coach Clegg Sets Championship Standard at Grand Blanc - Read
Oct. 19: Rockford Girls Set Pace, Hundreds After Have Continued to Chase - Read
Oct. 12: Bedford Volleyball Pioneer Continues Blazing Record-Setting Trail - Read
Oct. 5: Warner Paved Way to Legend Status with Record Rounds - Read
Sept. 28: Taylor Kennedy Gymnasts Earn Fame as 1st Champions - Read
Sept. 21: Portage Northern Star Byington Becomes Play-by-Play Pioneer - Read
Sept. 14: Guerra/Groat Legacy Continues to Serve St. Philip Well - Read
Sept. 7: Best-Ever Conversation Must Include Leland's Glass - Read
Aug. 31: We Will Celebrate Many Who Paved the Way - Read