Petticord puts on a show, leads Ypsilanti Arbor Prep to Div. 3 state title

David Goricki
The Detroit News

East Lansing — Mya Petticord made sure she would leave a lasting impression in her final high school appearance in leading Ypsilanti Arbor Prep to its first state championship since 2016 with a 54-50 win over Kent City in the Division 3 title game Saturday afternoon at the Breslin Center.

After a sub-par shooting performance in Thursday’s state semifinal win over Maple City Glen Lake, Petticord was dominant with the title on the line, scoring 27, including 20 in the opening half on 7-of-8 shooting, making all three of her 3-pointers to give Arbor Prep a 35-27 halftime lead.

Ypsilanti Arbor Prep players celebrate after they beat Kent City.

Arbor Prep - 25-2 and ranked No. 4 in The News Super 20 poincreased the lead to 45-36 after three and had to withstand Kent City’s fourth-quarter rally which cut the deficit to 49-46 with 2:15 left.

Kent City (26-1), which lost to Grass Lake 52-50 in last year’s title game, could get no closer as Petticord made two free throws after attacking the basket and getting fouled for a 51-46 lead.

“Nerves didn’t get the best of me today, it was just my focus really, knowing that this was going to be my last high school basketball game, so I had a lot of focus and knowing this was my state championship game for the team,” said Petticord who signed with Texas A& M and finished third in Miss Basketball voting earlier in the week.

While Petticord was on target after scoring 20 on 5-of-18 shooting in the semifinal win, Kent City sophomore guard Madelyn Geers tried matching Petticord shot for shot to keep her team close.

Geers scored 15 first-half points, making 5-of-8 shots from the field and 4-of-5 from the line.

And, Geers had to be at her best with Kent City standout junior guard Lexie Bowers in early foul trouble. Bowers picked up her second foul just 1 minute and 11 seconds into the game and was whistled for her third foul with 1:23 left in the half, settling for five first-half points.

Geers picked up her third foul as well late in the half.

Geers took on the challenge of defending Petticord, actually picking her pocket and going coast-to-coast for a three-point play (basket and free throw) to pull Kent City within 26-22.

Then, Petticord answered by knocking down a 3-pointer, then made a pair of free throws after getting fouled in transition for a 31-22 before sophomore forward Stephanie Utomi finished off the 7-0 run off a putback for a 33-22 lead.

Geers continued her battle with Petticord by getting a shooter’s touch on a 3 – with the ball bouncing more than 10 feet off the rim before falling through the cylinder on the way down - then making two free throws to pull Kent City within eight with Petticord entering the picture one more time by scoring in transition in the final seconds.

Arbor Prep had a great shooting half, making 50 percent of its shots and knocking down 5-of-9 3s with Jazmin Chupp and freshman Eliza Bush also making long-range shots.

Petticord cooled down during the second half while Geers kept attacking at every opportunity, finishing with 27 points, including eight during the fourth quarter.

However, Arbor Prep guard Karianna Woods made the play of the game to make sure her team would walk away with the ultimate trophy.

After Geers picked up the ball near the free throw line with 35 seconds left and Arbor Prep holding a 52-48 lead, Geers tried handing the ball up near the top of the key to a teammate, but Woods stepped between them, stole the ball and made a layup for a 54-48 cushion.

“I knew the game was tight and I knew we’ve been practicing up the line all day, every day, every practice so I knew I was there, seen it and went for it,” said Woods who finished with nine points while limiting Bowers to nine points on 2-of-10 shooting, 1-of-5 from 3-point range.

“Kari Woods is the best perimeter defender in the state,” said Arbor Prep coach Scott Stine of Woods shutting down Bowers. “Kari Woods made arguably the most important defensive play of the game when she blew up that handoff and took it for a layup. That was a huge play and that’s what she does.”

And, on taking away Kent City’s 3-point shooting? Kent City attempts 26 3s a game with Bowers entering the night with 76 made 3-pointers.

“That’s our game plan every game, the way we play defense people shouldn’t be able to shoot 3s,” Stine said. “If we’re giving up an open three it’s generally because we trapped and we didn’t rotate correctly which opened up a 3. Our defense is set up to force penetration and limit outside shooting.”

Kent City made just 4-of-11 3s in the title game, also turning the ball over 15 times.

“I thought we had a difficult time handling their pressure,” said Kent City first-year coach Aleah Holcomb. “They really made it difficult for us to get into our offense. Other than that, I think that we played hard and never gave up.”

Holcomb talked of Geers’ ability to get things done at a high level, and Bowers’ struggles going up against Arbor Prep’s quickness.

“Maddie is a great athlete, and we knew after the first quarter that she was going to have to be one of our top scorers tonight just because she is so athletic and she was having the easiest time getting inside the lane, so she was exhausted by the end, gave it everything that she had and worked really hard to get points for us tonight,” said Holcomb of Geers, then gave her thoughts on Bowers’ inability to get open. “I think they played really tight, so she (Bowers) had a hard time getting herself open.”