Girls basketball semifinals preview: Ypsilanti Arbor Prep in unfamiliar role as underdog
Ypsilanti Arbor Prep knows its way to the Final Four to play for state championships. In fact, Arbor Prep (19-6) is making its fifth consecutive trip to the girls basketball state semifinals.
But this time, it will find itself the underdog when it takes on Pewamo-Westphalia — 25-1 and ranked No. 8 in The News Super 20 poll — in a 2 p.m. Division 3 semifinal at Calvin College’s Van Noord Arena in Grand Rapids on Thursday.
Semifinals are Thursday and Friday, with the finals in the four divisions Saturday.
Arbor Prep showcases an outstanding backcourt in 6-foot senior Mahri Petree (Bradley) and freshman phenom Mya Petticord — who already owns offers from Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State — and will play Pewamo-Westphalia and 5-11 junior Hannah Spitzley, a Western Michigan commitment, in the second Division 3 semifinal. Flint Hamady (20-5) and Lake City (22-2) play at noon.
Arbor Prep lost to Flint Hamady in the 2015 Class C semifinal, then returned the following year to beat Pewamo-Westphalia in a regional semifinal before winning the Class C state championship with a 53-37 title-game win over Traverse City St. Francis.
Arbor Prep moved up to Class B in 2017 and lost, 59-48, to Detroit Country Day in the final, then played Detroit Edison in the Class C state title game last year, falling 51-34.
Pewamo-Westphalia lost to Edison in last year’s state semifinal, 50-39, and lost to Edison in the Class C state-title game in 2017, 46-44.
After a 35-33 regional semifinal victory over Kent City, Pewamo-Westphalia crushed Grandville Calvin Christian, 56-37, in the regional final and Niles Brandywine in the quarterfinals, 43-19, on Tuesday.
Arbor Prep has been dominant as well, moving on to Calvin College after winning its five postseason games by an average of 60-24, including a 59-31 quarterfinal win over Adrian-Madison (23-2) on Tuesday.
“We have a tremendous amount of respect for Steve and for their program,” said Arbor Prep coach Scott Stine, taking a couple of minutes to talk while watching film on Steve Eklund’s Pewamo-Westphalia team. “They do things the right way. They execute and get the most out of their abilities, probably more than anyone in the state.
“Defensively, they are extremely good at keeping the ball in front of them. They are always in the correct help positions and they make teams play with patience and make teams execute. And, offensively, they have patience, take what they are given.
"They have players understand what their roles are and as a group they are fundamentally sound.”
When asked to talk about his backcourt, Stine replied: “They are both playing really good right now. Both of them are making good decisions. Mahri, this is the best she’s ever played, averaging 16 points over the last eight games and she’s making the right decisions. She’s shooting when she needs to shoot, attacking when she needs to attack and passing when she needs to pass. And, Mya is really growing into understanding as a point guard when to get the ball to the person that’s hot, when to get to the basket.”
Eklund is well aware of Petree and Petticord.
“They are the type of team we’ve been trying to figure out how to get past for a few years now,” Eklund said. “They have a good backcourt, three years from now Petticord will be a high candidate for Miss Basketball, and Petree is the third of three sisters, just good basketball players, and the two of them is a lethal combination and the ball is in their hands a lot. We’re going to have to try and keep them out of the paint."
In Thursday’s night session, unbeaten St. Ignace (26-0) will face Kingston (24-2) in the Division 4 semifinal at 5:30, followed by the semifinal between defending Class D state champion Adrian Lenawee Christian (24-2) and Fowler (17-7).
Girls basketball semifinals
Van Noord Arena, Calvin College
►Saginaw Heritage (23-2) vs. Wayne Memorial (24-2), noon
►Southfield A&T (23-1) vs. Muskegon (21-4), 2 p.m.
►Final: 12:15 p.m. Saturday
►Freeland (23-2) vs. Hamilton (25-0), 5:30 p.m.
►Haslett (19-6) vs. Detroit Edison (25-1), 7:30 p.m.
►Final: 6:15 p.m. Saturday
►Lake City (22-2) vs. Flint Hamady (20-5), noon
►Ypsilanti Arbor Prep (19-6) vs. Pewamo-Westphalia (25-1), 2 p.m.
►Final: 4 p.m. Saturday
►St. Ignace (26-0) vs. Kingston (24-2), 5:30 p.m.
►Fowler (17-7) vs. Adrian Lenawee Christian (24-2), 7:30 p.m.
►Final: 10 a.m. Saturday