By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
GRAND RAPIDS – Detroit Edison’s mission has been pretty clear from the opening tip this season.
The Pioneers, off two straight Class C championships, opted up to Division 2 this winter and then defeated most of the best teams from the rest of the state – including three Division 1 semifinalists and the top-ranked team in Division 3.
While Haslett did give Edison its first tournament game this winter closer than 30 points in Friday’s last Semifinal at Van Noord Arena, the Pioneers pulled away early and prevailed 70-43 to make the final day of the season for the third straight winter.
They’ll go for their third straight MHSAA championship Saturday against Freeland in the 6:15 p.m. title game. It will be an opportunity to add one more achievement to a large stack over the last three seasons, and a crowning one for lone senior Rickea Jackson, who was named this year’s Miss Basketball earlier this week.
“(It’s) just to finish out strong with the challenges we overcame this year,” Jackson said. “Everyone knows who we are, so for us to have this huge target on our back and for us to make it this far, it just means we’ve been working hard in practice and we’re seeing our hard work pay off.”
Edison improved to 26-1 this season and 70-7 over the last three, its only defeat this winter to Ohio power Columbus Africentric 65-60. It will try to become the sixth school to win three straight MHSAA girls basketball championships, joining Flint Northern, Detroit Country Day (twice), Waterford Our Lady, Portland St. Patrick and Leland.
The Pioneers began with a little bit of a different starting lineup Friday, but it didn’t change up much in terms of results. A Jackson basket with 5:29 to go in the second quarter pushed the advantage to double digits for the first time and permanently.
Jackson finished with 26 points and eight rebounds, and junior Gabrielle Elliott – another member of all three Finals teams – added 21 points and four assists.
The unranked Vikings (19-7) had defeated three other ranked teams during this postseason to reach the Semifinals for the first time since 2015. But No. 1 Edison presented a strong challenge to their perimeter shooting and held Haslett to just 2-of-14 from 3-point range.
“Typically we’re a really good 3-point shooting team – we actually set a school record this year for the most 3-point field goals made – and I thought we got good looks. But with their length and athleticism they speed you up and those looks close pretty quickly,” Haslett coach Ross Baker said. “Maybe if we hit a couple of those early, we could’ve built a little more momentum. But … anything we’ve asked these girls to do, they do it 110 percent. I thought we handled their pressure. They’re really long. I thought we were really competitive on the glass – I think in the first half we were about even, but the second half we ran out of steam.”
Sophomore forward Skyla Nosek led Haslett with 16 points, and senior guard Ella McKinney added 15.
“Our eighth grade year was when Haslett was in the championship. And being honest, coming in freshman year I thought we’d make a tournament run too,” McKinney said. “We got a tough draw with East Lansing and lost in the first game, but ever since that we’ve had a little bit of fire to push ourselves in the postseason. This year we knew we had a special team, and being seniors we wanted to be leaders and to carry the team as far as we could. It was something really special, and we’ll never forget being here – and playing against a great team is pretty great too.”
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PHOTOS: (Top) Detroit Edison’s Rickea Jackson rises above Haslett’s defenders to launch a shot during Friday’s second Division 2 Semifinal at Van Noord Arena. (Middle) Haslett’s Brooke Bradley works to get around Edison's Damiya Hagemann.