Southfield — Julia Ayrault put on a Miss Basketball type performance in the Division 1 regional semifinal Monday night, helping Grosse Pointe North finally get a win over perennial state power Birmingham Marian.
Ayrault, a 6-foot-2 senior who is headed to Michigan State, scored 30 to lead North to a 60-48 win over Marian — 22-2 and ranked No. 3 in The News Super 20 — avenging a 60-47 loss in the opening week of the season.
“We kind of talked in the locker room before the game, that since I’ve been at North we’ve never beat Marian before, and we were all juiced up, ready to get going and play so we were excited,” said Ayrault, who wore a brace on her right shooting hand to protect torn thumb ligaments.
“We came out with a better game plan than the first time we played them. We know they are a fantastic team and we had to go out and give it everything we got. We definitely focused on guarding the post more because in the last game against us that’s where they really dominated us. We couldn’t really front them in the first game so we focused on packing it in more, forcing them to take more outside shots.”
North – 20-3 and ranked No. 16 – will face No. 2 Southfield A&T in the regional championship game on Wednesday at 6 p.m. on A&T’s home floor. North advanced to the Final Four at the Breslin Center last year, losing a semifinal game to eventual state champion Saginaw Heritage.
Ayrault scored more points than Marian in the first half. She finished with 18 first-half points, making 8-of-11 shots from the floor to help North take a 28-16 lead at the break.
Marian did a horrible job of finishing at the basket in the first half, missing a half dozen layups, including one that was followed by a transition basket by Ayrault to open up a 17-8 lead.
After Marian pulled within 10-8 late in the first quarter, North went on an 11-1 run with sophomore guard Maddie Kohler starting it with a 3-pointer, then a transition basket off a turnover, followed by three baskets from Ayrault — two more coming in transition — for the 21-9 cushion midway through the second.
“Our focus on our game all year has been transition baskets, because we know we’re in good enough condition to where we can run teams up and down,” said Ayrault, who made 13-of-18 shots and grabbed 10 rebounds with five steals. “We need to rely on our defense to get us into our offense.”
North opened the second half with a 10-2 run during the first two minutes to open up a 20-point lead (38-18) with Ayrault scoring the final five points, including a three-point play (transition basket and free throw).
“It wasn’t in the cards for us today,” said Marian coach Mary Cicerone, who owns 661 career wins for No. 5 all-time in state history, along with six state championships. “My bigs, we got them the ball and they tried their best but just couldn’t put those puppies in. We missed six easy ones in the first quarter alone. We did what we were supposed to do, but you have to shoot the ball well to win when you’re playing a good team.
“We stopped Rickea (Detroit Edison 6-3 senior and Miss Basketball front-runner Jackson), she only had 16 (in 57-51 loss to top-ranked Edison on Feb. 14), but we couldn’t stop Julia. She was in another planet tonight. She’s a great player.”
Cicerone was proud of how Marian battled back in the second half, pulling to within 48-41 off a transition basket by Olivia Moore with 4:33 left, but that would be as close as it would get.
“I’m very proud we gave them a game in the second half, gave them a little scare,” Cicerone said. “They did a nice job in their press, between that intimidation and throwing the ball away a few times and missing those puppies, we panicked and it showed in our play (in first half). We did a much better job in the second half.”
Moore led Marian with 11 points; sophomore Shannon Kennedy, nine and 6-2 freshman Sarah Sylvester and 6-1 senior Megan Kraus, eight apiece.
Senior guard Evelyn Zacharias scored nine for North.
More girls basketball
Southfield A&T 67, Warren Cousino 30: Southfield A&T (21-1) used its athleticism and size to run Cousino (15-9) out of the gym in the second semifinal game at Southfield A&T.
Marshall-bound Alexis Johnson, a 5-10 senior forward, set the tempo by scoring 10 in the opening quarter to help A&T take a 20-8 lead.
Johnson scored 14 first-half points and junior point guard Cheyenne McEvans added 13 with Toledo-bound guard Soleil Barnes making a pair of 3-pointers to open up a 42-21 halftime lead. A&T extended the lead to 55-27 after three.
Senior guard Mackenzie Cook did everything she possibly could to keep Cousino in the game in the first half, scoring 13 with 3-point threat in Kate McArthur (Central Michigan) being limited to three.
McEvans (20 points), Johnson (18) and Barnes (15) combined to score 53 for A&T.
Cook finished with 20 for Cousino and McArthur, five.
Hartland 42, West Bloomfield 21: Whitney Sollom had 13 points and 13 rebounds for Hartland (21-3). Niah Thurman scored eight for West Bloomfield (20-3).
St. Clair Shores Lakeview 46, Utica 26: Joslyn Brennan had 18 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks and Julia Decker scored 10 for Lakeview (18-5). Utica finishes 15-8.
New Haven 61, Detroit Jalen Rose 7: Dara Capaldi scored 22 and Jazmyn Turner and Imari Williams each had 12 for New Haven (19-3). Anaya Bouyen scored four for Jalen Rose (9-6).
Detroit News staff contributed.