EAST LANSING – This month has been filled with firsts for Grosse Pointe South – first Regional Title, first Quarterfinal win, first Semifinal appearance.
On Saturday, the Blue Devils can cap their historical run with a first-ever MHSAA girls basketball championship.
They didn’t secure that opportunity until junior Claire DeBoer grabbed the game’s final rebound with three seconds to play in Friday's Semifinal. But she knocked down two free throws, and Grosse Pointe South outlasted Ann Arbor Huron to win 44-41.
“I was so excited when they fouled me, because I felt like I could knock the shots down,” DeBoer said. “And I was really excited when both of them went through and there were four seconds left.
“It just felt amazing.”
Grosse Pointe South (23-3), an honorable mention in the final Associated Press Class poll, will take on top-ranked Grand Haven (26-1) at noon Saturday. Both are playing for their first MHSAA championship.
But first, the Devils had to survive the most even game of this weekend so far. Both teams shot 35.7 percent from the floor. Both scored 20 points in the post. Huron had a few more assists, as South had a tough time holding onto the ball at times. South had a few more steals, as Huron had a tough time engaging its press because of its struggles offensively. Both teams had only one scorer in double figures.
And both had a chance until the end.
Grosse Pointe South led for the final 16 minutes, but by only a point after Huron freshman Ariel Bethea’s basket with 32 seconds to play. The teams traded possessions until Huron launched a 3-pointer with three seconds remaining. It looked good from the release, maybe to go in off the glass. But it missed, and DeBoer came down with the rebound and was fouled.
“Our game plan was to pressure them and wear them down. I think for the most part it worked,” Huron coach Steve Vinson said. “We just dug ourselves too deep of a hole, and could never get back up.”
Huron junior guard Bianca Williams led her team with 14 points and four steals. Senior center Logan Sims had nine points and six rebounds.
The Devils have no one to match the height of Grand Haven’t 6-foot-5 center Abby Cole – DeBoer is the team’s tallest player at 6-1. But she’s formidable in the post as well – she had game highs of 16 points and 14 rebounds Friday. And Grosse Pointe South is plenty confident it can utilize a few more strengths, including abilities to run the floor and apply defensive pressure.
“They’ve got a big team, they’re the number one team in the state, and they were expected to be here. We’re the so-called Cinderella,” Grosse Pointe South coach Kevin Richards said. “But I do like some of our matchups.
“We're excited, but we're definitely not settling for a runner-up.”
Click for the box score. Watch the game and both teams' postgame press conferences at MHSAA.tv.
PHOTO: Grosse Pointe South senior guard Caitlin Moore pulls up for a shot Friday. She finished with six points, four rebounds and four steals. (Photo courtesy of Terry McNamara Photography.)