West Bloomfield — Southfield A&T will be heading to Calvin College with a lot of momentum for a chance at a state championship.
A&T — 23-1 and ranked No. 2 in The News Super 20 — displayed its multiple weapons to overwhelm St. Clair Shores Lakeview 62-36 in a Division 1 state quarterfinal Tuesday night.
Yes, it was definitely a team effort by A&T, which had outstanding ball movement and forced turnovers with its full-court pressure and half-court trap.
A&T earned the right to play No. 15 Muskegon, a 53-51 winner over DeWitt, in Friday’s 2 p.m. state semifinal at Calvin College.
Senior forward Alexis Johnson (Marshall) led A&T with 17 points, 10 rebounds and eight steals. Senior point guard Soleil Barnes (Toledo) added 17 points, which included five 3-pointers.
A&T also had help from 6-foot-3 junior Jasmine Worthy, who contributed nine points, nine blocks and seven rebounds and junior guard Cheyenne McEvans, who fired in 14 points while doing an outstanding job of distributing the ball around.
Lakeview (19-6) led 8-5 late in the opening quarter when 6-6 junior center Joslyn Brennan scored off a putback, her own miss after getting blocked by Worthy, but A&T went on a 6-0 run to close out the quarter for an 11-8 lead with Barnes knocking down her first 3-pointer and Johnson scoring in transition and turning it into a three-point play with both baskets coming off of assists from McEvans.
Then, A&T increased the pressure, forcing seven second-quarter turnovers in the first 5 minutes and 45 seconds of the quarter to push the lead to 27-10 with sophomore guard Kayiona Willis starting the 16-2 run with a layup off a steal, followed by Worthy getting a steal at one end of the court and making a three-point play off a putback at the other for a 16-8 cushion.
After a free throw by McEvans, Johnson put on a show, scoring eight straight, first scoring off a putback, then making two free throws after a steal, then scoring a transition basket off a steal, capped off by a putback to open up a 25-10 lead with 3:20 left in the half.
“Our team was just down and we were feeling a little sad, didn’t come out ready to play, were playing down to our competition so we just needed someone to pick it up,” said Johnson of her play during the second-quarter run.
Johnson was proud of Worthy, saying: “Jasmine just gets out there and keeps her hands up and I feel every time she blocks a shot it gives us more intensity and makes the game go faster.”
Lakeview fought back and cut the deficit to 10 (29-19) before A&T went on a 23-5 run to carry a 28-point (52-24) lead into the final quarter.
McEvans and Barnes were the catalyst during the third quarter run when A&T made nine of its first 10 shots to put the game away. McEvans scored eight points during the quarter and Barnes made three more 3-pointers.
Barnes wasn’t finished, connecting on her fifth 3-pointer to give A&T its largest lead of 57-28 with 5:17 remaining.
“We have been playing really well, took us a little while to get going today, but it happens in the state tournament,” A&T coach Michele Marshall said. “We’re getting contributions from every kid and that’s what’s really important for us in our starting lineup. I really like how they are playing and I give us a good chance of winning it (state title) at Grand Rapids.
“You know what you’re getting from Cheyenne (McEvans) and Alexis (Johnson), and Kayiona Willis, the little sophomore point guard, put amazing pressure on. Soleil (Barnes) is shooting the basketball extremely well and Jasmine (Worthy), who has been coming alive since regionals, it’s just all of those pieces that we think are coming right now that make us a really tough out.”
A&T made a state semifinal appearance two years ago with Deja Church (Michigan) leading the way, losing to East Kentwood, 55-51. Johnson and McEvans were starters on that team and ready to change history this time around.
“It’s a great feeling, real exciting to know we have a chance to win it all,” McEvans said. “I went there two years ago and we didn’t win it, so it feels good to be back. I had a feel of it the first time and we played a little rattled, so I’m going to try and spread my experience to my teammates and tell them when we go out there that it’s just another game.”
Brennan finished with 19 points for Lakeview, 13 coming during the second half.