By Craig Beilfuss
EAST LANSING—For the second consecutive season, the Kent City girl’s basketball team will have to settle for the Division 3 runner-up trophy.
On Saturday, the Eagles dropped a 54-50 decision to Ypsilanti Arbor Prep at the Breslin Center on the campus of Michigan State University.
Kent City had no defensive answers for Ypsilanti Arbor Prep senior guard Mya Petticord, who finished with a game-high 27 points, including three 3-pointers. She also connected on 8-of-9 from the free-throw line. Petticord is a Texas A&M commit for next year.
The Eagles struggled against the Gators’ trapping defense that forced several turnovers. That helped lead Arbor Prep to their second state title in 6 years. The Gators also won it in 2016.
The Gators head coach, Scott Stine, is a graduate of Oakridge High School. He knew plenty about Kent City before entering Saturday afternoon’s title game.
“Fun fact. My last high school victory as a player was against Kent City,” said Stine.
“I’m very familiar with Kent City. Used to scrimmage them. They have a very rich tradition.”
As for the defensive adjustments he made for the title game, Stine commented. “We were forcing them to play faster than they typically play and forcing them to make decisions under pressure.”
Kent City led only once and that was during the opening two minutes of the game at 4-3. Neither team led by more than three points during the opening quarter. The Gators owned a 13-11 lead at the end of the quarter as Petticord scored nine points. Kent City junior Maddie Geers kept the Eagles within striking distance with six points.
Lexie Bowers picked up two quick fouls in the first quarter at the 6:56 mark and the 6:49 mark. She later picked up a third personal foul with 1:23 left in the first half. That had a negative effect on the Eagles’ fortunes in the opening half.
The Gators put some distance between themselves and Kent City in the second quarter with a 22-16 scoring advantage. Petticord canned 11 points in the period to increase Arbor Preps halftime lead to 35-27.
Geers, who finished with a game high 27 points for Kent City, kept her team in the game with nine points in the quarter. Bowers had five points.
“I thought we had a difficult time handling their pressure,” Kent City first year coach Aleah Holcomb said. “They made it difficult to get into our offense. Other than that, I thought we played hard.”
Kent City could not cut into the lead in the third quarter. The Gators led 45-36 heading into the final quarter. Geers and Taryn Preston accounted for all of the Eagles’ points in the quarter.
Kent City cut the Gators lead down to three, 49-46, with 2:17 remaining, but could never get over the hump. They did get within four at 52-48 with 1:22 remaining, but turnovers down the stretch proved costly.
No other Gators finished in double digits. Karianna Woods scored nine points and Stephanie Utomi chipped in with six.
Bowers finished with nine points for Kent City and a team-high 10 rebounds. Senior Taryn Preston tossed in eight points and Savannah Miller added six points for the Eagles.
For Emma Geers, it meant the end of a solid career for the Eagles, but a disappointing finish.
“I’m not very happy about it, that’s for sure,” said Geers, who played four years of varsity basketball. “But it was the best four years that I could have asked for. I’m proud of every single one of my teammates. It was amazing to play with not only my biological sister, but all of the other teammates who are basically sisters, as well.”
Kent City (26-1) was 14-of-18 free-throw line. The Eagles also won the CSAA Silver Division with a 10-0 mark.
Their tournament journey included wins over Lakeview and Morley-Stanwood to capture a district championship. That was followed by victories over Western Michigan Christian and Grand Rapids Covenant Christian for the regional title.
They followed that up with an exciting 34-33 win over Schoolcraft on Tuesday evening in quarterfinal action before winning in the semifinals on Thursday against Madison Heights Bishop Foley 47-30.