By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
GRAND RAPIDS – Detroit Edison’s girls basketball team had one loose end left to tie this weekend.
By midway through the third quarter Saturday, everything the Pioneers had hoped to accomplish was secured – including their second straight Class C championship.
Edison avenged its lone loss of the season with a 51-34 victory over Ypsilanti Arbor Prep at Van Noord Arena. The Gators had won their regular-season meeting 54-49 on Jan. 11.
And early in the rematch, they looked to be Edison’s nemesis again. Arbor Prep jumped out to an eight-point lead barely five minutes into the game. But the Pioneers responded with a 16-7 run to take the lead for good midway through the second quarter.
“The first quarter rattled us a little bit. But we overcame many other games when we were down,” Edison junior Rickea Jackson said. “When we hold each other accountable for things, we can get on each other, and we trust one another. So it was easier for us to get back in the game.”
And that served as proof of the biggest difference in this year’s team from the one that claimed the school’s first MHSAA title in any sport a year ago.
This season’s Pioneers have been considered by many the best team in the state, regardless of Class, thanks to a run through a number of contenders in Class A and B including an overtime 57-55 win over Saginaw Heritage on Feb. 20. Heritage won the Class A title earlier Saturday.
But while Edison (24-1) has won 33 of its last 34 games going back to last season, that one defeat still gnawed away.
“We knew in the back of our heads that Arbor Prep was the only team we’d lost to this year,” Pioneers coach Monique Brown said. “I think that was sitting with us when we first started, so (there was) a lot of anxiety when we started.
“Last year, we got off to that start against a Country Day or Arbor Prep, we weren’t able to overcome that. (Their) lead of seven points, eight points would turn into 15 by the end of the game. So I think our maturity and our tough schedule we had this year had prepared us for this moment today.”
Brown had noticed from film of the first matchup that her team, while applying some effective pressure, didn’t finish it off with points off turnovers.
The Pioneers had 28 points off Arbor Prep’s 20 turnovers Saturday. They also outrebounded the Gators 46-39 and held them to 13 percent shooting from the floor over the final three quarters. Jackson had six points and sophomore guard Shaulana Wagner had four off the bench during the run to the lead. Edison sophomore Gabrielle Elliott, meanwhile, scored 16 of her game-high 20 points during the second half.
“We didn’t have the effort to finish the plays in the first half to keep us in the lead,” Arbor Prep coach Scott Stine said. “The second half got very physical. … We really didn’t have our rhythm the whole game, and it showed. They’re regarded as the best team in the state, and you’ve gotta play a great game to beat them. We weren’t perfect today.”
Elliott made 8 of 12 shots from the floor. Jackson followed her scoring with 16 points to go with 10 rebounds, four blocks and four steals. Wagner, a starter last season and significant sub in both games this weekend, added six points, eight rebounds and five steals. Freshman guard Damiya Hagemann had nine points and five assists.
Arbor Prep senior Lasha Petree, a Miss Basketball finalist this season, finished with 19 points, six rebounds and five blocks. None of her teammates scored more than four, however, as the 34 points total were their season low.
This was Arbor Prep’s third straight championship game appearance. The Gators (21-6) won Class C in 2016, then finished runner-up in Class B a year ago.
Click for the full box score.
PHOTOS: (Top) Detroit Edison’s Gabrielle Elliott works to get past Mahri Petree during Saturday’s Class C Final. (Middle) Arbor Prep’s Lasha Petree gets her hand on an Elliott shot.