Above: the student section rushes the court at the end of Friday night's game
The East Lansing Trojans Girls Varsity team barely squeaked past the DeWitt Panthers on Friday night – securing the District championship by a score of 48-47. There wasn’t a seat open in the gymnasium at East Lansing High School with hundreds of fans from both teams coming out to support their team.
The first half belonged to the Trojans. Back-to-back blocks by the Trojans with just over three minutes to play in the first quarter gave way to a big three-pointer from forward Jaida Hampton. That gave the Trojans a 15-6 lead, forcing DeWitt to call a timeout. East Lansing only added to its lead after the timeout, posting a 19-8 advantage after the first quarter.
In the second quarter, the Trojans slowed down their offense, often running their plays through multiple times before attacking. DeWitt’s Jessah McManus’s halftime buzzer beater was waived off after officials determined she didn’t get the shot off in time. The Trojans led 32-14 at halftime.
After halftime, a new wave of energy came from the Panthers. They were able to cut the lead to 11 with under three minutes left in the third. East Lansing answered back, and they led by 12 after three quarters.
Things quickly picked up in the fourth quarter. DeWitt’s McManus sunk a three with 3:30 left to play, cutting East Lansing’s lead to just 6. The crowd woke up when the lead was trimmed to three, but the Trojans’ Aaliyah Nye made both her free throws to bring the lead back up, 44-39. A three-pointer from DeWitt’s Madison Petersen cut the lead down to just two. With all the momentum going for the Panthers, McManus hit another huge three-pointer giving them their first lead since the first quarter, when the score was 1-0 DeWitt.
With just 35 seconds left, East Lansing’s Aazhenii Nye was fouled on a layup she made, giving the lead back to the Trojans 46-45. She missed the free throw and DeWitt scored a two-point basket off it. The Panthers re-gained the lead 47-46, but Trojans answered with a lay-up of their own. They led 48-47 when DeWitt called the final timeout of the game, with just 2.7 seconds left to play.
The entire crowd was on its feet for the final play of the game, students and parents alike. The Panthers were unable to score and the Trojans won by a final score of 48-47. The student section rushed the court where they met the team and coaches at mid-court to celebrate the exciting win.
The Trojans were led by Aazhenii Nye, who scored 21 points and grabbed 7 rebounds, and Aaliyah Nye, who had 11 points and 4 boards. Petersen led the Panthers with 12 points and McManus with 11 points and 7 boards.
East Lansing Coach Rob Smith spoke with ELi after the win. When asked about what the win meant to him, he said, “I’m just so elated for our girls… This is one of the games you’ll never forget.” He noted that their season isn’t over yet, and they’ll be soon preparing for their next game in the tournament.
East Lansing will head to regionals next week which will take place at Sturgis High School. They will play on Tuesday night against the winner of the Kalamazoo-Loy Norris District game.