Southfield – Southfield A&T coach Michele Marshall had a bad feeling when her standout forward, Alexis Johnson, went down hard in the third quarter, screaming in pain after banging her left knee on the court.
But after several minutes, Johnson got up, and she later returned to the game.
Johnson put on a show to help A&T – 22-1 and ranked No. 2 in final Detroit News Super 20 – dominate No. 16 Grosse Pointe North 67-36 in a Division 1 regional final Wednesday night on its home court.
A&T is ready to make a run at the state championship heading into the final week of the season. Wednesday’s triumph followed a dominating win over Warren Cousino in a regional semifinal Monday, 67-30.
Johnson, who will play next year at Marshall, finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds, making 11-of-18 shots from the field. She went crashing to the court after getting a shot blocked by Miss Basketball finalist Julia Ayrault with A&T leading 28-14 with 6:30 left in the third.
“Alexis is one of the main reasons that I’m coaching this year after last year, when I thought it would be my last year,” said Marshall. “She’s like a daughter on my team, so the first thing that went through my mind is, ‘Is my kid OK?’ After that, sometimes she falls in practice and she bounces back up so I was hoping that it would be one of those times. We’ll put some ice on it because we need her to be as healthy as she can possibly be because she’s such a catalyst for this team.”
Johnson took a seat on the bench, then returned minutes later and scored eight points during the rest of the quarter to help A&T carry a 44-29 lead heading into the fourth.
“The knee that I hit was the knee that I injured before, kind of banged on it, and it’s bruised a little bit,” Johnson said. “It was just like, ‘I can’t have that be a setback, I can’t put my energy down.
“My coach always said if I have good energy my team has good energy, so I always try to be positive in every situation so my team will follow.”
A&T shot 52 percent from the field and limited North to 23 percent, doing a strong job on the MSU-bound Ayrault, who scored 22, but on 7-of-21 shooting (1-of-6 3-pointers). Ayrault scored 30 in North’s 60-48 upset win over No. 3 Birmingham Marian Monday.
A&T dominated the final quarter with Johnson and Jasmine Worthy the catalysts during a 13-5 run to open a 57-34 lead, with Worthy scoring seven and Johnson four.
“Jaz had a really good game today and she stepped up when other people weren’t stepping up,” said Johnson of Worthy.
Worthy, a 6-foot-3 junior, had 14 points, nine rebounds and four blocks, including three blocks during a pivotal two-minute stretch in the second quarter when A&T forced six turnovers and held North scoreless to take a 26-9 halftime lead. In fact, A&T held North without a field goal for the final 10:30 of the half.
Junior guard Cheyenne McEvans had seven points and 11 rebounds for A&T and Soleil Barnes 12 points, including two 3-pointers.
“Jasmine has been big in these regionals, big time,” said Marshall of Worthy. “She’s been watching Soleil (Barnes), Cheyenne (McEvans) and Alexis (Johnson), and we kept telling her, ‘You’re going to mean something big for this team.’ I’m so proud of her. She’s finally understanding her importance on this team.”
Hartland 50, Walled Lake Western 46: Nikki Dompierre scored 26 for Hartland (22-3). Lia Krawiec scored 17 and Olivia Warren 16 for Western (23-2).