Grand Slam: Trojans Take Two from Comets

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Saturday, February 22, 2020, 9:30 am
Mark Meyer

East Lansing second-year head coach Ray Mitchell has led his team to a 15-1 overall record and a 10-1 mark in the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue division. (Photo by Gary Caldwell)

GRAND LEDGE – Two steps closer to the top, and a victory away from reaching one of their collective goals.

The East Lansing varsity basketball teams won twice Friday night at Grand Ledge, as the girls sewed up their 16th league title in the past 18 seasons while the boys zeroed in on their first title under second-year head coach Ray Mitchell.

Sophomore guard Soraya Timms scored a season-high 19 points in leading the Trojan girls to a 76-40 victory, their 11th without a loss in the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue division. Meanwhile, the Trojan boys raised their conference mark to 10-1 as Marcus Wourman Jr., Andrel Anthony Jr. and Brevin Jackson combined for 48 points in a 72-57 victory.

The Trojan girls (17-1 overall) return to action Tuesday at Heritage High School in Saginaw to face the two-time defending state Division 1 (Class A) state champion, while the boys (15-1 overall) can clinch at least a tie for the conference title when they travel to Everett on Friday, Feb. 28.

Quieting the home crowd: The Senior Night setting gave the hosts all the inspiration they would need to keep the game close in the first quarter (13-11), that is, until the Trojans got rolling. Which they did, to the tune of 15 straight points to close the first quarter and start the second — at which point the Trojans’ trapping defense made it difficult for the Comets to mount any type of comeback.

“It was sloppy at times and we didn’t shoot the ball all that well, but to come in here on Senior Night knowing the kind of game it would be, we’re very happy with the outcome,” East Lansing head coach Rob Smith said.

(Photo by Jim Pivarnik)

Timms (above), who appears to have regained her shooting touch after having missed several games earlier this season due to injury and illness, made a pair of treys and scored eight of her 19 points in the second quarter to guide the Trojans to a 35-20 halftime lead.

Senior forward Ahlura Lofton helped pad the Trojan lead in the third quarter by scoring six of her 11 points. For the game, Lofton made four of her six field goal attempts, including three of four attempts beyond the three-point arc.

Senior forward Aaliyah Nye scored 14 points but, according to Smith, was disappointed to have made only 5 of 16 attempts from the floor.

“Aaliyah was frustrated with her game tonight,” Smith said. “Possibly the pressure of being in the running for Miss Basketball, and the expectations that you have to perform at a higher level than you’re accustomed to … but what we told her tonight was, ‘We just want you to be yourself, and we’ve got your back.’

“I told her, ‘You didn’t have your best game, but look at Soraya Timms. She’s pouring in nineteen points and shooting the rock extremely well. Ahlura Lofton pouring in eleven. She [Nye] can score four points like she did against Pewamo, and we’re going to be just fine. Play tough defense and rebound. We’re trying to work that angle now, so it should be interesting.”

Andrel Anthony Jr. scored 16 points and saved one of his high-flying dunks for the fourth quarter Friday night as the Trojans raised their record to 15-1 and moved one step closer to a league title. (Photo by Gary Caldwell)

Buckle down, wrap it up: East Lansing’s best shooting half of the season (17 of 25 field goal attempts) enabled the Trojan boys to lead somewhat comfortably at halftime (41-27), but Grand Ledge put together a nine-point run midway through the third quarter to trim the deficit to 45-38 with 3:38 remaining.

Still in front by eight (51-43) with 5:42 to play in the fourth quarter, Trojan head coach Ray Mitchell called timeout “to make a few adjustments.”

“We were giving up some easy threes, and not blocking out defensively like we should,” Mitchell said.

And just like that, the Trojans quickly asserted themselves and put the game out of reach by outscoring Grand Ledge 21-9 over the next four minutes. Wourman scored seven of his game-high 19 points in the fourth quarter.

“We’ve been doing a lot of shooting all year, a lot of shooting,” Mitchell said. “So I’ve been waiting for a moment like this. The free throws are starting to fall and so are the threes.”

East Lansing has a half-game lead on Okemos (9-1 CAAC Blue), which had the night off. The Chieftains close out their portion of the league schedule with away games at Everett (Tuesday) and DeWitt (Friday). Everett sits in third place in the league with a 5-4 record.

“We’ve been preaching all week that we can’t have any stepbacks,” said Mitchell, whose team defeated Okemos earlier in the week to force a tie for the league lead. “We haven’t won the championship yet. That’s our goal so we have to come out focused.”

Anthony (16 points) and Jackson (13 points) also reached double figures in scoring for the Trojans, who will host Lansing Catholic at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the ELHS gymnasium.

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