East Lansing — Warren Cousino found out just how difficult it is to repeat as state champion losing to Flushing, 52-36, in a Class A semifinal on Friday at Breslin Center.
Cousino (24-3) ran into a Flushing (23-3) team which played with great intensity and confidence from the opening tip, making its shots and causing problems with fullcourt pressure to take a 19-10 lead in the opening quarter, 33-20 at halftime and 43-28 after three.
Cousino all-state senior guard Kierra Fletcher (Georgia Tech) scored 30, but had to earn every one of her points, shooting 11-for-26 shots while being guarded closely by Lauren Newman, who received great help defense from her teammates.
Fletcher received little help offensively from her teammates, who combined to shoot 1-for-29, including 0-for-14 from 3-point range.
It was a year ago Fletcher led an under-the-radar Cousino team to the state championship, just the way unranked Flushing entered Breslin this weekend.
“It’s really not a pity party,” Cousino coach Mike Lee said. “We’re sad it’s over, but had a heck of a run, 14 playoff wins in a row, 20-game winning streak this year, so tonight’s going to be a celebration and we’re going to exhale and enjoy each other.
“Give credit to where credit’s due, Flushing came at us all night. (Fletcher) had to work her tail off and she was still double- and triple-teamed for 30 (points).
"I think for everybody else, I think that they just never found a rhythm. I think we got out of it, never really got comfortable in that game and we trailed from the beginning and at some point they wanted it so much that they started to tense up and not move.”
Flushing scored in transition, scored inside with Temple-bound, 6-foot senior center Breanna Perry (16 points, seven rebounds), and used the 3point shooting of Shelby Morrow (13 points) in the opening to set the tempo in the opening quarter.
Newman did some damage as well, attacking the basket and making 3-pointer to finish with 14 points.
Fletcher, the Miss Basketball runner-up, went down hard early in the second half with Flushing holding a 35-23 lead.
“I was going up for a layup and I got clipped on my left leg and it was probably a charley horse,” said Fletcher, who was lying on the court for several minutes with the injury. “I knew it was going to be a big game, I didn’t want to come out because I didn’t want to let my team down, just do whatever I could to try and get us back into the game and possibly get us a win.”
At the time of Fletcher’s injury, she had 18 points and four rebounds. She soon limped back to the scorer’s table, and returned less than a minute later.
Fletcher cut the gap to 10 with five minutes left in the third quarter, but it would get no closer, as Cousino failed to connect on a 3-pointer and having Newman connect on a long-range shot to make it 38-25.
Flushing forced eight first-half turnovers while committing just one in the first half and limited Cousino to 21.4-percent shooting (9-of-42) through three quarters.
Cousino’s 3-point threat, Kate McArthur, had trouble getting free from Flushing’s quick, aggressive players. She was held scoreless, 0-of-11 from 3-point range.
“We’ve never been here before and I couldn’t be happier with the way the girls played today,” Flushing coach Larry Ford said. “They were true to themselves. They’re very, very good at figuring out what we want them to do in terms of game plan and then they execute the game plan. It all starts with defense with us. I thought our defense was very, very good today for the whole game."