Senior Breanna Perry and the Flushing girls basketball team have looked up in the rafters of their school gym for years and admired just one lone banner:
Girls varsity golf from 1977.
But on Saturday, Flushing took down East Kentwood 49-38 to take home its first state championship in anything other than girls golf.
And a second banner for the gym rafters? That’s coming too.
“That’s seriously the only banner we have, that golf banner,” said Breanna Perry, playing in her final high school game Saturday for the Class A girls basketball championship. “We say it all the time, we’ve said it all four years, like, ‘We’re gonna have a banner up there.’ And this year we’ve won some and lost some but we always look up there and say, ‘We’re really gonna get a banner up there.’”
Flushing coach Larry Ford was thrilled with his team’s banner day.
“They have definitely made their mark,” Larry Ford said. “It’ll go up at the school and it’ll be there forever, and every time they come back years from now they’re going to smile when they walk in the gym.”
It was the first state final in the team’s history, a day after its first state semifinal appearance since 1976.
If there was pressure on the team to win the state championship, the school didn’t help relieve it, either.
“It wasn’t (much pressure), until the school decided to do a clap-out,” Perry said. “Before we got there we said, ‘We’re just playing another game,’ but once we saw all these people and the band in the hallway it was like, ‘Oh man.’ But we got on the bus and calmed our emotions down and realized it’s just another game.”
Perry scored 12 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in one of her best games of the season. Senior Lauren Newman also recorded 19 points and shot 4-for-8 on 3-pointers.
The game was a physical battle throughout the first half, with Flushing up 19-17 at the intermission. But the Raiders exploded out of the break, breaking out on a quick 7-0 run to get up 26-17 and never looking back.
“We’ve been in some games this year where we haven’t come out so good in the first few minutes,” said Ford, who coached the Raiders to his third 20-plus win season in his 13 seasons. “That’s another enjoyable thing to see as a coach, to see the maturation of the team and how they take the things that I say and internalize them and show them out on the floor.”
Whenever East Kentwood would put a couple buckets together to try to come back, Flushing would always respond. The Raiders were forcing turnovers on the full court press and fighting hard for offensive rebounds and second-chance points.
East Kentwood coach Jimmy Carter also led his team to the state final for the first time. The Falcons have junior Corinne Jemison (12 points Saturday) and sophomores Alona Blackwell and Mauriya Barnes returning next year.
Michael Epps is a freelance writer.