By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
GRAND RAPIDS – All nine Detroit Edison players who saw the floor in last season’s Class C championship win over Pewamo-Westphalia were back for Thursday’s Semifinal at Calvin College’s Van Noord Arena.
But there was a clear difference in the rematch after the Pioneers won last year’s meeting by two points.
Edison freshman guard Damiya Hagemann might not have been the only reason her team advanced this time with a 50-39 victory. But there’s no question she brings another dimension to a roster that includes one of the state’s best juniors in Rickea Jackson, a top sophomore in Gabrielle Elliott and a number of other contributors who have helped the Pioneers become known as arguably the best team in the state, regardless of class.
Hagemann had 13 points, three assists, two steals and only two turnovers – providing a noticeable boost to go with Jackson’s 25 points and seven rebounds.
“She adds everything – an ability to attack the rim, she brings the mental toughness, physical toughness,” Jackson said. “Overall, she’s a really great guard. And the chemistry we have together, it makes the game easier.”
Edison (23-1) will face Ypsilanti Arbor Prep in Saturday’s 4 p.m. championship game.
The Pioneers never outscored P-W (25-1) by more than four points in a quarter Thursday. But overall, the Pirates’ 39 points were their second-fewest this season. P-W entered the game outscoring its opponents by nearly 41 points per game.
“It’s tough to lose in the Finals and Semifinals, but what a great story to play a team that’s going to go down with probably one of the best four-year runs in Michigan state basketball (history),” P-W coach Steve Eklund said. “And we’re going to be able to say we battled with them twice. Three of those girls are going to play Big Ten basketball or play in the WNBA someday, and we’ll say we played them one day and we were right there with them.”
Elliott also grabbed 10 rebounds as Edison as a team outrebounded P-W 35-23. Sophomore guard Shaulana Wagner – the player who moved to the bench with Hagemann’s arrival this season – grabbed seven more in 18 minutes as the most active of the team’s subs.
“She’s a wonderful kid. She told me when Damiya came it didn’t mater if she started or not,” Edison coach Monique Brown said. “We talked heavily about starting roles. … Their job and role was to come in and change the magnitude of game, and they accepted that role. Although she’s not starting, she plays starting minutes. She’s out there at the end of the game, every time we have a close game.”
There have been only a few. P-W played the Pioneers closer than all but four opponents this season – especially impressive considering Edison’s schedule included five games against teams playing at Calvin this weekend in Class A, B or C.
But the Pirates had a hard time coming closer, in part because they struggled with usually reliable 3-point shooting. P-W made only 4 of 19 long-range shots Thursday, as opposed to about 40 percent coming into the game.
Emily Spitzley, one of only two seniors on the team, led with 14 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Sophomore Ellie Droste added 11 points.
After falling in its District opener in 2015, P-W went on to win its District in 2016 before launching the two straight runs to Finals weekend.
“Just thinking back on the four years I’ve had playing with this team, I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” Spitzley said. “From where we were freshman year to now, it’s totally flip-flopped. We got so much better and really built a name for ourselves, being a top team in the state and playing with the best teams out there.”
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PHOTOS: (Top) Edison's Rickea Jackson applies defensive pressure during Thursday's first Class C Semifinal. (Middle) P-W's Ellie Droste (40) and Edison's Shaulana Wagner get in position for a possible rebound.