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Class A final: Thomas duo, Marian turn back DeWitt

David Goricki
The Detroit News
Marian's Brittany Gray, left, and Samantha Thomas celebrate Thomas' last-second shot to end the first quarter Saturday.

East Lansing – Bailey Thomas was rested and ready to get back on the floor for the second half of the Class A state championship game between Birmingham Marian and DeWitt Saturday afternoon at the Breslin Center.

After all, Thomas had been sitting for 14 of the 16 first-half minutes due to foul trouble.

Thomas, a junior point guard, returned to help Birmingham Marian repeat as Class A state champions for the first time in program history, defeating DeWitt 51-37.

Not only was Bailey sitting, but also her younger sister Samantha Thomas, who played just nine minutes with Marian holding a 18-17 lead at the intermission.

"It's so hard to be sitting, knowing there's nothing you can do to help your teammates, knowing it's your own fault for being on the bench," Bailey said. "It was great to be back out there, showing you're there for the team again."

Bailey scored all of her 12 points during the second half, making 8-of-11 free throws. Samantha, a 6-foot sophomore, scored a game-high 17, 12 coming in the second half.

"It's like every time she gets the ball, I think automatic two points because she has great moves and her shots always seem to go in," Bailey said of her sister. "I'm really proud of her."

It was the sixth state title for Marian coach Mary Cicerone, guiding the Mustangs to three straight title games from 1996-98, coming away with the championship in '96 and '98. They also won the title in 1988 and 1992.

"They struggled to stop Sam and it's as simple as that," said Cicerone of DeWitt's inability to stop Samantha Thomas inside. "We pounded it inside to her.

"We're used to having them (Thomas sisters) having the ball most of the time. It just interrupted our flow a little bit; I felt we struggled a little bit in our offensive set (with Thomas sisters on the bench). It kind of messed up our trap and I had to get out of the full-court (press). Both teams got into foul trouble so it messed them up too."

Sure, the Mustangs were in foul trouble, but they still had seniors Kara Holinski and Jaeda Robinson handling the ball, with senior forward Brittany Gray (seven points, eight rebounds) attacking the basket.

"It's definitely a different role since I've always been a spot-up shooter, but I was happy to be able to take on that role today because I think we needed it at that point," said Holinski, who had 10 points and five rebounds.

Cicerone praised her bench for playing well too, including junior guard McKenna Landis, junior center Elizabeth Grobbel and sophomore forward Madeline Laurencelle.

DeWitt senior guard and defensive stopper Cayce Palmer was limited to just 14 minutes, fouling out with 4:17 left and Marian leading 38-33.

"It seemed like every time I turned around someone was picking up their fourth foul," DeWitt coach Bill McCullen said. "We're a better basketball team when Cayce Palmer is on the court. She's our best defender, so that hurt us to constantly have her in foul trouble."

McMullen also said Marian's length hurt DeWitt, as well. The Mustangs forced DeWitt into 20 turnovers with their full-court pressure or from the half-court trap.

"I think the length is definitely a problem and it's like straight across the board," McCullen said. "It's like everybody is the same (size) and they can switch things. They switch within their man and so it's hard to run some of your sets."

Still, the difference in the game was the return of Samantha and Bailey Thomas.

Samantha, as a 14-year-old freshman a year ago, scored 14 in a 44-26 state championship game win over Canton, contributing three three-point plays during one four-minute stretch in the third quarter.

Samantha again played well during the third quarter of this title game, scoring eight straight Marian points to open up a 26-21 lead.

After DeWitt took a 32-31 lead early in the fourth with Claudia Reid's two free throws, Marian went on a game-ending 20-5 run, with Bailey scoring nine and grabbing four rebounds. The Mustangs also made 13-of-19 free throws during the final quarter.

Reid scored 12 for DeWitt (25-2) which shot 27.7 percent. Summer Ward scored 11 and Lilly George had 10 points and 10 rebounds.

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