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May 25, 2018
By: John Raffel

Saginaw Heritage celebrates girls baskeball title



Heritage girls too much for East Lansing in Class A Finals


John Raffel

Sports Scene


It was all Saginaw Heritage in the Class A state championship girls basketball game.

The Hawks ended the season at 27-1 and handed the 26-1 Trojans their only loss of the season.

“It’s been a tremendous run,” Heritage coach Vonnie Delong said. “We played a lot better than we did Friday.”

East Lansing enjoyed an early lead but it was all Heritage from there. The Hawks were up 12-8 after the first quarter and 28-15 at halftime. It was 42-29 after the third quarter and Heritage put it away with a 15-7 run in the fourth for the 57-36 final.

Heritage defense did the trick, holding East Lansing to 10-of-43 from the floor for 23.3 percent. Heritage was 23-of-50 from the floor for 46 percent.

Four of the Hawks’ starters were in double figures, led by Madison Camp (15) who was 6-of-8 from the floor, Shine Strickland-Gills (12), who was 6-of-9 from the floor and had 12 rebounds, Jessica Bicknell (12), who five boards and Mallory McCartney (10) who had four rebounds. The other starter, Moira Joiner, had six assists and nine rebounds.

East Lansing’s Jaida Hampton, the new Miss Basketball, struggled with 1-of-13 from the floor and hit four free throws for six points.

DeLong decided to use a zone against Heritage and it turned out to be an excellent decision.

“I thought they were pretty quick for us. We traditionally play a lot of zone but this year we played almost all man,” she said. “We played zone against Carman Ainsworth and Detroit Edison and that was it. A zone gives us a different look. It’s a struggle. I think you saw for East Lansing, it was a struggle for them to attack it.

“Watching (East Lansing), I thought their strength was their perimeter game. They hit a lot of threes. That’s what they do. I thought we could stop them in the paint.”

It was Heritage’s first girls basketball state title since 2002.

“Any state title, it’s my first one, and it’s great for me,” DeLong. “I’ve lost in the finals and I’ve lost in the semis. It’s the first time that I’ve coached one. It’s a credit to these kids. You get a sense for what it means to Heritage. They were here in full force all week long. Our fans have been unbelievable the whole year. It’s a good group of kids. They support each other.

“Our hockey team went to the state finals last week for the first time in school history. They’re just excited. They were thrilled to get back here and come back again. Our students show up and support us and I think the community does.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

It was a disappointing loss for East Lansing coach Robert Smith and his players.

“They’re disappointed with the outcome but the body of work is truly amazing,” he said. “I’ve had some of these ladies four years and they’ve done amazing things. They’ve gotten better every year. We’re a team, that doesn’t have a lot of size. It’s a necessity for us to box out to win games. We were victimized 43 times on the boards. And we had 23 (rebounds). You’re not going to win too many basketball games in that situation. The Strickland kid was really good; she had 12 boards. She was tough down low. We didn’t have an answer for her.

“Our kids have battled through the playoffs. We played the No. 4, No. 6, No. 8, No. 10 in the state and now the No. 2. Heritage is very good with their only loss coming to Detroit Edison (57-55 in double overtime). We thought if we could do certain things, this could be our game. But hats off to Heritage – they executed better at the end of quarters. They executed their game plan well, getting the ball off the boards.”

Heritage’s 2-3 zone defense was extremely effective.

“We have a lot of players who will be back next year,” Smith said. “I know they’re going to be hungry and very motivated to work hard in the offseason. We have other kids coming. As difficult as it is to swallow this loss, the future is very bright.”