By Bill Khan
Special to Second Half
EAST LANSING — To coach Jason Gray’s left sat Taylor Gleason, still in her Goodrich basketball uniform, but already representing the past for the Martians’ program just moments after her final high school game.
To his right in the postgame press conference sat sophomore Tania Davis, a living, breathing reminder that Goodrich’s future could be every bit as great as the immediate past.
Davis scored a game-high 20 points, as Goodrich became only the fourth school to win back-to-back MHSAA Class B Finals championships with a 51-34 victory over local rival Flint Powers Catholic on Saturday night at the Breslin Center.
Gleason, the Miss Basketball runner-up who has signed with the University of Illinois, capped a spectacular four-year career with 14 points, six steals and five assists. Goodrich never advanced beyond the Quarterfinals until Gleason came along. The Martians lost in double overtime in the Semifinals two years ago before joining traditional heavyweights Powers, Detroit Country Day and Dearborn Divine Child as the only schools with consecutive Class B titles.
Asked what to expect from Goodrich in the coming years, Davis didn’t hesitate to offer this prediction: “More championships, of course.”
Davis emerged as a team leader ahead of schedule when Penn State recruit KeKe Sevillian missed the entire season with an injury. Davis, who started as a freshman, averaged 17.6 points as the number two scorer behind Gleason’s 21.6 average.
“I think I’ve grown up a lot,” Davis said. “I learned from KeKe and Taylor. When (Sevillian) went down, I knew I had to step up tremendously and be a leader and take her position on the team, and
also do my part.”
In Gleason and Davis, Gray said Goodrich had the best backcourt tandemin the state.
Their chemistry was evident on one play in particular. Gleason stole the ball and led a full-court break, dishing a behind-the-back pass to Davis, who caught the ball in stride and made the easy basket with
4:46 left in the second quarter.
“I love playing with Taylor,” Davis said. “I’ve played with her basically my entire life. I know everything she’s going to do. She knows everything I’m going to do. The behind-the-back passes, she knows when they’re coming and I know when they’re coming. It’s awesome.”
Goodrich had a strong program before Gleason arrived, but went to a higher level under her watch. The Martians were 101-7 during her career, making three trips to the Breslin Center. Perhaps just as
important as the MHSAA championships in the psyche of long-suffering Goodrich fans, the Martians beat Powers in the postseason all four years.
The Chargers had been a perennial roadblock for Goodrich, beating the Martians in all eight of the rivals’ tournament meetings over a 12-season span from 1997-2009. Goodrich eliminated Powers in the
Districts the last three seasons before new District boundaries separated the Flint-area schools until the Finals.
“I’ve been very fortunate to play with a team as talented as I have these last four years,” Gleason said. “I couldn’t imagine playing with anybody else. The experiences I’ve had with this team and this program
have been unforgettable.”
As for playing Powers in the MHSAA Finals instead of the Districts, Gleason said: “It was really cool, knowing that Powers has been here multiple times before. My aunt (all-stater Aimee Pearson) carried that
on. It was really cool for my family.”
Powers has four MHSAA Finals championships on its resume, but this was a surprise postseason run for the unranked Chargers after a 3-5 start. Powers (21-7) beat two state-ranked teams along the way in Freeland and Detroit Country Day, but No. 3 Goodrich (25-3) took control immediately, building an insurmountable lead.
Goodrich led 15-2 after one quarter and 28-6 at halftime, as Powers shot 3 for 31 (9.7 percent) from the field. The Chargers didn’t get closer than 14 points in the second half.
“The first quarter kind of defined the tone of the game,” Powers coach Thom Staudacher said. “Once we got down that big, it was difficult for us to dig out. Going into halftime, at Powers it’s not really a guideline; it’s a rule that we’re never going to give up.”
Powers’ quest for its first MHSAA title since 2001 will continue next year with a squad that should return virtually intact. The Chargers lose only two seniors, starters Darbie Barkman and Kim Berry.
“This year was definitely one to remember,” said junior guard Ally Haran, who had nine points and five steals. “No one expected us to even make it this far. We were expected to lose in Districts. We kept pushing and pushing, knowing we could make it. We made it this far. It’s going to stay in the back of our mind that we lost this game tonight, but that’s going to push us to keep playing well and to be ready for next year.”
Junior Michela Coury grabbed 19 rebounds for Powers, while junior Sarah Ruhstorfer had nine points.
While Goodrich and Powers have a huge local rivalry, only two of the 12 postseason meetings between the teams have been decided by fewer than 15 points. The most memorable edition of the rivalry came in the
2002 Regional championship game at Imlay City, when power forward Erin Carney hit the only 3-pointer of her four-year career to beat the buzzer in Powers’ 42-41 victory.
“These last four years we’ve defeated Powers, but there’s a lot of heartbreak in a lot of Goodrich girls basketball alumni in the 10, 12 years prior to this,” Gray said. “Tania made a point that this one was for those alumni who scratched and clawed. Sometimes they challenged them, sometimes they got beat down good. It makes me happy they’re thinking big picture.”
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PHOTOS: (Top) Goodrich's Taylor Gleason works to drive past Flint Powers' Darbie Barkman (1) during Saturday's Class B Final. (Middle) Powers' Hannah VanAlst goes up for a shot over a Goodrich defender. (Top photo by Hockey Weekly Action Photos; middle photo by HighSchoolSportsScene.com).