By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
GRAND RAPIDS – Flint Hamady made it to Van Noord Arena this season on a defensive effort that gave up only 40.4 points per game heading into Thursday’s Semifinal matchup with Lake City.
During the second half, the Hawks nearly shut down the Trojans entirely to lock down a spot in Saturday’s championship game.
Trailing heading into the third quarter, Hamady allowed just 13 points over the final 16 minutes to get past Lake City 42-33 and earn a return to the Finals for the sixth time and first since finishing Class C runner-up in 2015.
“We didn’t come with the best first half,” Hamady senior guard Jordan McKeller said. “But we look at each other as sisters, and at the end of the day it’s us and the coaching staff. We were able to keep our heads up and play together as a team.”
The Hawks (21-5) will play for their first MHSAA championship since 2010 at 4 p.m. Saturday against Pewamo-Westphalia.
Hamady is putting up just under 52 points per game this season. But the defense has hit another level during the tournament as the Hawks have gone from facing a number of larger opponents to schools their size. Including Thursday’s game, Hamady is giving up just 36 points during the playoffs.
Major differences in slowing down Lake City were 6-foot-1 senior forward Treshondra Williams and 6-2 junior center Aryana Naylor. Hamady outrebounded Lake City 37-27 – and 20-9 during the seconds half – and those two combined for 20 boards over the four quarters.
“I thought we did a good job defensively in the first half. They’re just a good shooting team,” Hamady coach Keith Smith said. “We wanted to stay more attached to number 12 (Makayla Ardis), she’s a good shooter. And in the second half we put Aryana Naylor on their 32 (Rylie Bisballe), made the adjustment there, and Ari did a good job.”
Lake City led by as many as four for most of the third quarter. But McKeller’s basket with 2:10 to play in the period gave the Hawks their first lead after the break, and they never gave it back.
Lake City (22-3) went from making 41 percent of its shots from the floor during the first half to 27 percent during the second. The Hawks, meanwhile, had a key six second-chance points during the fourth quarter as they pushed the lead to as large as 12.
Naylor and McKeller both had 10 points to lead Hamady, and Naylor also grabbed eight rebounds. Williams had nine points and 12 rebounds.
“We had a lot of nerves in the first quarter, but the girls were feeling good,” Lake City coach Bill Tisron said. “The second half we were pretty tense. I thought we got good looks, but their size took over. They had a lot of second opportunities in the second half, and I thought that was the difference.”
Ardis made 6-of-12 shots from the floor for a game-high 14 points to go with four steals. Junior forward Megan Hose grabbed eight rebounds.
Lake City was playing in its first Semifinal since the 1976 team won the Class D championship. Four starters and the top sub from Thursday should return next season, as Ardis was the only senior who saw more than a minute of action.
“It’s been really fun. To be the first team in 43 years (at the Semifinals) it’s pretty amazing – just the experience has been awesome,” said Bisballe, the team’s leading scorer this winter. “We’re just going to be a better team (next season), and our goal is to get back here again.”
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PHOTOS: (Top) Flint Hamady's Xeryia Tartt works to get past a Lake City defender. (Middle) The Trojans' Megan Hose (13) looks for an opening in the Hawks' defense.