Class C final: Calumet stuns Flint Hamady
East Lansing — Alexis Rowe made sure Calumet would be making the long 500-mile trip home with the state championship trophy.
Rowe scored 22 to lead Calumet to a 57-49 upset win over Flint Hamady Saturday afternoon in the Class C state title game at the Breslin Center.
Calumet's win gave the U.P. two state championships in the same year for the first time in history. St. Ignace won the Class D title earlier.
Terilynne Budreau (four points, 12 rebounds) shook her head and smiled as she looked across from senior teammate Ellen Twardzik (eight points, 11 rebounds) while they got in position to rebound as Calumet junior guard Clara Loukus was making her free throws in the final seconds.
Yes, it was a look of "Do you believe this?"
And, to think home would have to wait another day for the Calumet players, coaching staff and hundreds of fans since the Portage Lake Lift Bridge between Houghton and Hancock was under repair until Sunday.
"These kids had to put together their best team game that they've probably had in their lives today and they needed to do that to beat that team because that team is really good," said Calumet first-year head coach Jeff Twardzik, who was promoted to the varsity job after guiding the JV team to a 38-0 record the previous two years. "We had to make sure that they (Hamady) didn't get to the rim and we needed to take care of the paint."
Flint Hamady (26-2) had its chances, but failed to make its free throws or rebound, especially during the final three minutes. Calumet held a 42-29 rebounding edge, 22-11 at the offensive end and limited Central Michigan-bound 6-footer Aaliah Hill (9 points, 3-of-10 shooting) and Hamady to 37 percent shooting.
After Calumet (24-2) missed the front end of a one-and-one with 2:18 left and holding a 46-42 lead, Hamady's Krystal Rice grabbed the rebound and was fouled, giving her a one-and-one opportunity to cut the deficit to two. It didn't happen.
Then, Calumet walked to the line time and time again, splitting a pair of free throws, but consistently grabbing the rebound for second chances. It made 15-of-23 free throws during the fourth quarter when it outscored Hamady by a 20-13 margin.
"We work hard on the inside and we don't wait for the ball to get to us," said Ellen Twardzik of her team's ability to outrebound Hamady. "You have to go get it, have the mentality that 'I'm going to get that and you're not going to stop me.'"
Twardzik smiled with pride as he watched his daughter talk during the press conference, knowing that mentality was the difference.
Hamady's program had been to Breslin numerous times, winning Class C state championships in 2009 and '10. It was Calumet's first journey to the Final Four for a shot at the championship.
Hamady had the momentum early with junior guard Jalisha Terry making her first five shots, including two 3-pointers, to open up a 17-8 lead early in the second quarter. Terry scored 26, but was limited to three in the final quarter when she missed all six of her shots from the field.
"I think we had to get the jitters out, playing at the Breslin Center and all those things," Jeff Twardzik said. "You could see in their eyes, 'That's gone, let's start going.' A couple of shots started falling and you could see the confidence building. Lexi (Rowe) was stroking a couple of beautiful shots outside and Ellen was taking care inside."
Yes, Calumet had to feel it was its night when Rowe was knocking down long range shots.
"I'm not much of a three-point shooter, but when I feel like I'm going I know that I'm going," said Rowe, who made 4-of-7 3-pointers and 8-of-13 free throws.
Hamady coach Keith Smith felt Calumet was getting the calls.
"The thing that bothered us was that we thought there was a couple of times that we had to play through contact," Smith said. "They were getting the chance to get to the basket more freely than us."
Said Hill, who picked up three first-half fouls, "They were calling little touch fouls on me."