March 18, 2013 at 1:00 am

David Goricki

Prep Insider: Grosse Pointe South girls fall, but should return

East Lansing -- Abby Cole and Grand Haven once again made sure Grosse Pointe South left Breslin Center disappointed following a heartbreaking loss in the Class A state championship game.

It was a showdown between South, ranked as The News' preseason No. 1 team, and Cole, ranked as The News' top-ranked player — and the rematch was a classic.

Cole, a 6-foot-5 center, led her team to a 54-53 win over South last season, and then a 60-54 overtime victory Saturday.

Cole, a senior whose basketball career now is complete, departs knowing she helped Grand Haven become the first back-to-back state champs in Class A since Lansing Everett in 2000-01. She led the program to an 81-2 record the last three years, finishing with a 51-game winning streak.

Cole also is one of the premier volleyball players in the country and will play that at Michigan.

Grand Haven coach Katie Kowalczyk-Fulmer, meanwhile, believes South can make a third straight trip to Breslin next year and win it all — largely due to its returning backcourt, led by sophomore Cierra Rice.

"Cierra Rice plays like a sophomore in college," Kowalczyk-Fulmer said. "They are going to win one (state title) sooner than later."

Rice had her path blocked and then her shot blocked by Cole as time expired in the title game last year.

On Saturday, Rice once again had the chance to make the winning play, but Claire DeBoer's backdoor pass with six seconds remaining was deflected by Grand Haven's Hannah Wilkerson. The play by the duo worked earlier in the quarter to give South a 49-48 lead with 3:20 remaining.

Rice will be joined by Bre'nae Andrews and Aliezza Brown to form the top backcourt in Class A next season.

Rice topped the 20-point mark in four of her final five games in the playoff run, scoring 21 in a semifinal win over Dexter and 24 in the title game.

Mission accomplished

Taylor Gleason made sure she left a lasting legacy at Goodrich, leading it to three straight Final Four appearances, including a semifinal run in 2011, followed by consecutive Class B state titles.

Last year, Goodrich was expected to win the state championship after being ranked nationally for much of the season. It lived up to the billing, finishing 28-0.

This season, Goodrich was expected to be the front-runner — but that was before losing Penn State-bound guard Aketra Sevillian to a knee injury just prior to the season, and then two more starters to leg injuries, including Sevillian's younger sister, Alexis .

Still, Gleason (Illinois) was healthy, as was 5-4 sophomore Tania Davis . The duo proved unstoppable during the state tournament run, combining for 44 in a 57-43 semifinal win over Grand Rapids South Christian and 36 in a one-sided 51-34 title win over Flint Powers Catholic. Goodrich jumped out to a 28-6 halftime lead.

Gleason said she would gladly accept being runner-up for Miss Basketball in exchange for lifting two state championship trophies.

Lakes denied

Waterford Lakes was in search of a fourth straight state championship. It didn't happen, with St. Ignace using a 21-6 fourth quarter to defeat Lakes, 59-44, for its fourth state title and first in Class D.

St. Ignace finished with a 27-0 record.

Lakes senior guard Lexie Robak played a key role in the first three titles, and looked like she was set to carry Lakes on her shoulders for a fourth.

The teams were tied at 38 heading into the fourth quarter, with Robak accounting for 22 on 5-of-9 shooting from 3-point range. But she couldn't continue her hot shooting, connecting on just 1-of-5 3's the rest of the way.

She finished with 25 points.

Showing grit

You could say Manchester star McKenna Erkfritz is one tough kid.

And Erkfritz showed it, taking a slap to the face, then shaking it off to lead Manchester to the Class C state title with a 57-52 win over Saginaw Nouvel.

Erkfritz, a 6-1 senior, shook off the blow from Rachel McInerney and scored 22 to leave Breslin smiling.

"To be honest, I didn't really know what happened," said Erkfritz, who also grabbed 11 rebounds and made a 3-pointer from the top of the key to open up a 50-38 lead with three minutes left. "It really took me by surprise because the play wasn't even started before it happened. I thought I was bleeding.

"I thought I lost my teeth a little bit."

It was a wake-up call for Manchester, which overcame a terrible start, trailing 14-2.

McInerney said Erkfritz had pulled her injured fingers, which triggered the incident that resulted in a technical foul.

David Goricki's MVPs

Class A

Abby Cole, 6-5 senior, Grand Haven: Cole made Breslin Center her personal playground for a second straight year, blocking eight shots in an OT win over Grosse Pointe South in the title game — after her 23-point, 19-rebound, 12-block effort in a semifinal win over Westland John Glenn.

Class B

Tania Davis, 5-4 sophomore, Goodrich: Davis scored 23 in a semifinal victory over Grand Rapids South Christian and 20 in a title-game win over Flint Powers Catholic. She suffered a knee injury in the semifinal. After South Christian pulled within one point, she returned and sparked Goodrich's 57-43 win.

Class C

McKenna Erkfritz, 6-1 senior, Manchester: Erkfritz had 19 points and 10 rebounds in a semifinal win over Riverview Gabriel Richard, to avenge last year's loss in the regional final. She then had 22 points and 11 rebounds to lead Manchester to its first state title, rallying her team against Saginaw Nouvel.

Class D

Sarah Cullip, 5-11 senior, St. Ignace: Cullip made sure St. Ignace would earn its first state championship with an unbeaten record, contributing 16 points and nine rebounds against three-time defending champion Waterford Lakes in the final. Cullip was key as St. Ignace started the fourth quarter on a 9-0 run.

Crown 'em!

Girls basketball finals

Class A: Grand Haven 60, Grosse Pointe South 54 (overtime)

Class B: Goodrich 51, Flint Powers Catholic 34

Class C: Manchester 57, Saginaw Nouvel 52

Class D: St. Ignace 59, Waterford Lakes 44

Up next

Boys basketball finals

At Breslin Center, East Lansing

Class A: Noon Saturday

Class B: 6:30 p.m. Saturday

Class C: 4:30 p.m. Saturday

Class D: 10 a.m. Saturday

Grosse Pointe South's Claire DeBoer tries to intercept a pass intended for Grand Haven's Abby Cole in the Class A state championship game Saturday at Breslin Center. Cole stole the show, though. / Elizabeth Conley/Detroit News