St. Clair Shores -- Imagine somebody so close to you that you know what they had for breakfast and what cologne they sprayed on before leaving for work.
Imagine a defense so suffocating that your best chance of getting the ball over half court is a hope and a prayer. That's the way it's playing against Grosse Pointe South, Michigan's most talented and angriest girls basketball team.
South (24-1) beat Birmingham Marian (21-4), 63-58, in the Class A quarterfinals at South Lake High Tuesday night before a packed house. South advances to its second straight Class A semifinals Friday to play Dexter (23-3), but the only mission is to bring home the championship trophy it left behind on its last trip.
Here's why South is so angry. It had the title all but wrapped up on a silver platter last year. The only thing left was to smile for the cameras and throw their index fingers in the air.
But South fell apart and blew an 18-point lead and lost a bitter game to Grand Haven. It was a stunning game and it left the girls in a bitter mood.
Pressing the matter
Nobody needed to say a word when practice resumed. Everybody was thinking of getting back and taking care of business. Sometimes things come too easy for South and the girls lose focus and let up. It happened again against Marian. South was humming along and led by as many as 15 points. But Marian (21-4) is no pushover. The girls gained calmness in the storm and rallied to take a one-point lead in the third quarter.
Cierra Rice, who scored 26 points, did not think about the meltdown of a year ago. Instead she got mad and turned a new page during a 12-0 run.
"I try not to relive the past," she said. "And try something new and move forward. We just played really aggressive and our coach pushes us to play good defense. We do it for our coach and keep it going."
South is not just a great team. It's enjoyable to watch — if you are into pit bulls tearing into fresh meat.
When cornered this team turns nasty. The press turns victims into confused victims. South players are at their best when opponents are stumbling around the court.
"It makes me feel good; it makes the entire team feel good," Rice said. "It makes us feel like we can get them rattled."
Standouts all around
Bre'nae Andrews, Aliezza Brown and Rice are like ninja's on the court. They are quick, fast and cover like paint. There's nowhere to escape, nowhere to turn. Here's the problem: They are all due back next season, which means South might be in the middle of title runs unless some can find a way to break this gang up.
Then you top it off with 6-foot-1 senior center Claire DeBoer. She's a part-time center, free safety and wide receiver. She can post up inside. She can block shots if teams are fortunate enough to break the press. And twice she helped break Marian's press by receiving long passes from teammate Gretchen Shirar.
DeBoer admitted her team is still stinging from last season.
"Yes, we were angry," she said. "We got a taste of winning and it makes us want to win even more. The moment we got back together we were thinking about going back to states.
They love to run and make runs. That is what puts South a cut above. It also can be anybody's night. Shirar, Andrews and DeBoer all scored 11.
Kamry Peake and freshman Bailey Thomas scored 15 apiece for Marian
Don't fall asleep on Marian. This group has a state title run in it and we are certain to see it battle South again.
But Marian has yet to develop the anger that fuels South. Maybe this game will do that.
South, however, is a show-time team ready to bring home the prize this time.
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