East Lansing Girls Take Road Show to Defending State Champion

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Thursday, December 5, 2019, 2:30 pm
Mark Meyer

The East Lansing girls basketball schedule is stacked with quality opponents this season, and tonight’s lidlifter at Pewamo-Westphalia (junior varsity at 6 p.m., varsity at 7:30 p.m.) typifies the type of challenge that awaits the Trojans this season.

The host Pirates, defending state champions in Division 3, have compiled a record of 52-2 over the past two seasons. Their only two losses in that span have been to Detroit Edison, which this year moves up to Division 2.

Edison, by the way, is scheduled to visit the Trojans’ gymnasium on January 7.

“We play the toughest teams we can because, mainly, we learn from them,” said East Lansing head coach Rob Smith. “Most of the nonconference teams we play are different in terms of how they approach strategy. For example, Pewamo-Westphalia is about as good as anyone in running their half-court [offensive] sets, setting good screens and using those screens to get people open. [Ellie] Droste and [Hannah] Spitzley are two of the better players in Class C, if not the state.

“That’s something we struggled with [in a season-ending loss] against Coldwater, guarding well-disciplined teams. DeWitt also falls into the category. Then, when we get into playing teams like Detroit Edison, [Flint] Carman-Ainsworth, Chandler Park Academy and [Saginaw] Heritage, you’re talking about teams that are very athletic and like to get up and down the floor.”

Aaliyah Nye has accepted a scholarship offer from the University of Illinois, which she plans to attend after completing her senior season at East Lansing High School.

East Lansing returns 11 players from last year’s team, which shared the Capital Area Activities Conference title with DeWitt. The Trojans finished 20-3 and won their 13th district title in the past 16 years.

Senior starters Aaliyah Nye (18 ppg), Sanaya Gregory (9 ppg) and Ahlura Lofton (8 ppg) will have plenty of help from seniors Paris Hayes, Sug Williams (transfer from River Rouge) and Kalaia Hampton, as well as juniors Bre’Naya Lane and Allie Mayes, and sophomores Soraya Timms, Ella Miller, Corrine Jones and Payton Baker.

Junior forward Annelise Lebeda, whom Smith had slotted into a starting role, injured her knee at practice Tuesday and will not be available for tonight’s game.

“Initially it looked like a hyperextension but we’ll know more after she goes for an MRI,” Smith said Wednesday.

East Lansing’s 2019-20 schedule: Dec. 5 @ Pewamo-Westphalia; Dec. 10 @ Williamston; Dec. 13, Waverly; Dec. 17 @ Haslett; Dec. 20 @ DeWitt; Jan. 7, Detroit Edison; Jan. 10, Holt; Jan. 14, Okemos; Jan. 17, Grand Ledge; Jan. 21, St. Johns; Jan. 24, Everett; Jan. 27, Chandler Park Academy; Jan. 31 @ Waverly; Feb. 7, DeWitt; Feb. 10 @ Carman-Ainsworth (Flint); Feb. 14 @ Holt; Feb. 18 @ Okemos; Feb. 21 @ Grand Ledge; Feb. 25 @ Heritage (Saginaw); Feb. 28 @ Everett.

East Lansing’s 2019-20 roster: No. 2, Paris Hayes (5-foot-6, senior, guard); No. 3, Kalaia Hampton (5-foot-7, senior, forward); No. 4, Sanaya Gregory (5-foot-4, senior, guard); No. 5, Sug Williams (5-foot-8, senior, guard); No. 11, Soraya Timms (5-foot-7, sophomore, guard); No. 12, Bre’Naya Lane (5-foot-5, junior, guard); No. 14, Annelise Lebeda (5-foot-11, junior, forward); No. 15, Corinne Jones (5-foot-9, sophomore, forward); No. 21, Allie Mayes (5-foot-8, junior, forward); No. 22, Payton Baker (5-foot-8, sophomore, forward); No. 23, Ahlura Lofton (5-foot-9, senior, forward); No. 32, Aaliyah Nye (5-foot-11, senior, guard); No. 33, Ella Miller (6-foot-2, sophomore, center).

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