East Lansing – Kierra Fletcher made sure she took full advantage of her opportunity to play in the girls basketball state finals at the Breslin Center.
Fletcher, a 5-foot-10 junior guard, came out in attack mode Friday afternoon, scoring the game’s first six points, and went on to total 37 to lead Warren Cousino to a 60-45 victory over Hudsonville Friday afternoon in a Class A state semifinal.
Cousino (22-4), which earned its first regional title in school history last week, will play Detroit King (24-1) for the state championship Saturday at noon.
“They play a sagging defense so there’s a lot of open gaps and that gave me the opportunity to drive and kick it out to my shooters,” said Fletcher, who made 14-of-20 shots from the field and 9-of-13 free throws. She also grabbed nine rebounds and had five assists.
Fletcher got her teammates involved early, finding freshman Mackenzie Cook for a 3-pointer before scoring on a baseline jumper herself for an 11-0 lead three and a half minutes into the game.
Then, Fletcher found another freshman, Kate McArthur, for consecutive 3-pointers to open up a 19-6 lead late in the first quarter.
“I just wanted to come out and get an early lead on them because we knew they had great posts and we didn’t want to get down in the game,” said Fletcher, who has Big Ten offers from Minnesota and Illinois. “I just think we set that aggressive tone because we were faster and had more athletes and our mindset was just right at the time.”
McArthur scored 13, but it was Fletcher whom everyone was talking about since it was the third-highest scoring effort in a state semifinal history regardless of class.
“She’s a phenomenal player,” said Hudsonville coach Casey Glass. “Her game is drive, drive right, drive left. She’s not an outside shooter and we knew that. We just let her get too deep at times.
“There’s definitely a difference in watching film and then playing against her live. She’s very quick, able to get her shot off pretty much wherever she wants. They came out and got after it and it was just too hard to recover from.”
Cousino coach Mike Lee was impressed with McArthur’s ability to knock down the deep shots early. And, of course he had plenty of praise for Fletcher, who is now averaging 22 points.
“I felt we set the tone early on defensively and then it helps when you hit your first four shots. Kate set the tone from the outside and Kierra set the tone on the inside,” said Lee. “When Kate gets hot early, it’s going to be a good day for us.”
Cousino, which shot 50 percent from the field, led 21-8 after one, 32-18 at halftime and 45-27 after three.
When asked if he was ever concerned since Fletcher picked up her fourth foul with four minutes left and the lead cut to 12, Lee replied: “No, not at all, especially when you have a human press-breaker (in Fletcher) and one of the best free-throw shooters. She has a good jumper, but you’d never know it because she really doesn’t take them since she’s always driving to the hole and looking for her teammates. She’s the most unselfish player for someone of her caliber.”
Senior forward Shaina DenBesten had 15 points and nine rebounds, and 6-0 junior center Chloe Guingrich had 12 points and 10 rebounds for Hudsonville (23-4) which was 2-19 two years ago.