EAST LANSING – In the first quarter it was Ava Doetsch. In the second, Lexie Robak.
And at the end of Saturday’s third quarter at the Breslin Center, when Waterford Our Lady was strengthening its grip on its next MHSAA Class D title, Tori Duffey came through.
Unlike their first two title runs, this season’s Lakers didn’t have a proven star like 2011 grad and current Oakland University freshman Lauren Robak to take every big shot. The time, they had many.
Our Lady’s 53-37 win over Athens capped a third-straight Class D championship season in the same way the Lakers had won all season – with help from a variety of contributors who took on changed and increased roles this winter.
“People ask us, ‘How do you get excited? You’re going there again.’ The second time they were still saying how is it still exciting,” said Doetsch, who has played on all three MHSAA champions. “Not a lot of people get to come and play under these circumstances. To be with the same people … it’s really exciting to me. For this game, I was more excited than my freshman year.”
Our Lady, which entered the tournament ranked just No. 7 in Class D, finished 23-4 this season. Over the last four, the Lakers have a record of 90-16, with four District and Regional championships to go with three wins at the MHSAA Finals.
Juniors Lexie Robak and Jessica Parry have joined Doetsch on all three championship teams.
“You don’t believe it the first time. You don’t feel like it’s real,” Parry said. “Who does that, three in a row? It’s a crazy feeling.”
It began to set in with some big shots by Robak at the end of the second quarter, and took solid hold after Duffey’s barrage to finish the third.
The Lakers led Athens by just a basket, 21-19, with 2:49 to play in the first half when Robak drained consecutive 3-pointers and another shot to push the advantage to 10 heading into halftime.
Athens (21-6) cut the lead back to eight before Robak hit a jumper and Duffey, a senior, knocked down two 3-pointers and nabbed a steal as Our Lady closed the third quarter up 42-26.
For the game, the Lakers made 56 percent of their shots from the floor including 6 of 12 tries from 3-point range. Athens made just 28 percent of its shots, and 2 of 10 from behind the arc.
“They had really good shooters. That’s something we haven’t seen a lot of this season,” Athens sophomore guard Payton Wood said. “Some teams have had definite 3-point shooters than we knew we had to stay on. But they are just all-around a great shooting team, and (that’s) just something that took over the game.”
Duffey and Doetsch both scored 13 points to lead Our Lady. Doetsch had nine points, two rebounds and a steal in the first quarter to help the Lakers keep pace before beginning their break-away in the second. Robak finished with 12 points.
“Instead of having to always go to one player, we had five or six we always get the ball to, to count on them to score that lay-up or basket,” Doetsch said. “The other team didn’t know who we were going to pass it to, and that made it a lot more fun … because no one knew who we were going to get the ball to to score.”
Athens – making its first MHSAA Final appearance – had just two seniors this season. Sierra Stevens capped her high school career with a game-high 15 points.
Click for the box score. Watch the game and both teams' postgame press conferences at MHSAA.tv.
PHOTOS: (Top) Waterford Our Lady celebrates its third-straight Class D championship. (Photo courtesy of Terry McNamara Photography.) (Middle) Athens guard Leo Plaisir drives around Our Lady guard Anna Robb. Plaisir scored four points Saturday. (Photo courtesy of Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)