Home, Sweep Home: Trojans Stymie DeWitt

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Saturday, February 8, 2020, 12:30 pm
Mark Meyer

Senior guard Sanaya Gregory (left) leads the Trojan fast break while junior guard Allie Mayes (right) secures a rebound during Friday night’s victory over DeWitt. (Photos by Jim Pivarnik)

There’s no place quite like home, when the shots are dropping and the wins are adding up.

The East Lansing varsity basketball teams continued their winning ways Friday night in front an enthusiastic and appreciative home crowd, as both teams turned back DeWitt to post victories that are meaningful both in the conference race as well as for postseason seeding priority.

For six of the Trojan girls, Senior Night would be their last opportunity to play a game on their home floor. Aaliyah Nye and Sanaya Gregory combined for 31 points in their 81st win together as four-year starters, and on this night helped East Lansing break free from a DeWitt team that had tied the game at 35 with 3:17 left in the third quarter.

The final score — 57-42 — was not indicative of how effectively the Panthers kept East Lansing from building its usual fast-break, pressure-defense momentum that ultimately wears down most teams.

Trojan senior Sug Williams (0) defends against Hannah Kurncz (30) during Friday’s game at the ELHS gymnasium. (Photo by Jim Pivarnik)

“I expect that kind of game out of DeWitt every time. It is what it is,” East Lansing head coach Rob Smith said. “They’re going to scrap, they’re going to hustle. They crushed us on the boards in the first half, but fortunately our internsity in the second half really picked up. We were able to double-team them quite a bit and take them out of their sets.”

Smith stoked his team’s fire with a verbal reminder in a third quarter timeout just prior to Isabelle Gilmore’s game-tying three-point play.

“There’s a lot of emotions on Senior Night,” Smith said. “You’re trying to get them to settle down, and play East Lansing basketball even though for some of them it’s their last home game and they have a lot on their minds. Eventually they really settled in and played East Lansing basketball.”

The Trojans closed out the third quarter with an 8-0 surge. Sophomore guard Soraya Timms, back in the lineup after having missed a couple of games because of the flu, swished a trey to start the run. Nye, who scored 14 of her game-high 22 points in the second half, dropped in another trey to increase the lead to 41-35 with 1:29 left in the quarter. Less than a minute later, sophomore center Corinne Jones put the Trojans ahead by eight on a rebound basket after a steal by junior guard Bre’Naya Lane.

Ella Miller (33) looks for an opening while being guarded by Alexa Ashley (54) of DeWitt. Miller scored 10 points for East Lansing in the 57-42 victory. (Photo by Jim Pivarnik)

East Lansing then scored seven of the first nine points in the fourth quarter to lead 50-37 with 5:13 remaining.

“I thought we finished at the basket better this time,” DeWitt coach Bill McCullen said. “The first time we played [in December, a 62-38 victory for East Lansing] none of those shots were going down. I thought the kids had an aggressive mind-set to attack in the first place but they also weren’t just throwing the ball up on the glass. They were going in to score.”

Sophomore center Alexa Ashley led DeWitt in scoring with 14 points and seven rebounds. Gilmore scored nine points and grabbed eight rebounds while Hannah Kurncz contributed 11 points.

Andrel Anthony Jr. scored 15 points for the Trojans Friday night. (Photo by Gary Caldwell)

Trojan boys maintain perfect home mark: East Lansing extended its home winning streak to seven with a 50-37 victory over DeWitt. Junior guards Andrel Anthony Jr. and Marcus Wourman Jr. combined for 29 points to help the Trojans improve their overall record to 12-1, 8-1 in the CAAC Blue. East Lansing trails league leader Okemos (11-2 overall, 8-0 CAAC Blue) by a half-game in the standings.

Wourman’s steady hand in running the Trojan offense was instrumental in building a 34-23 lead midway through the third quarter. However, after sophomore guard Mason Woods scored a trey and pair of free throws, DeWitt came charging back to cut the lead to six entering the fourth quarter.

DeWitt stayed within six (40-34) until just three minutes to play. After Brevin Jackson missed a driving lay-in, Trojan sophomore center Ethan Dunn converted the rebound into a put-back basket for an eight-point East Lansing lead. Anthony extended the lead to 10 with 2:49 left by taking a full-court pass from Jackson and scoring on a layup.

“I thought defensively we did a great job in sticking to the game plan … and that’s what wins ballgames,” East Lansing head coach Ray Mitchell said. “I thought offensively we rushed a few possessions and took some early shots … we have to be a disciplined athletic team, not just an athletic team. That’s what we’re trying to build towards.”

Anthony, who scored eight of his 15 points in the fourth quarter, believes his team is growing up and gaining confidence as the season goes along.

“We’ve been in a lot of close games and a lot of times it comes down to trusting your teammates and coaches,” Anthony said. “I know I was rushing some shots when I should have trusted the process to work itself out and make sure we got the shots we wanted.”

Mitchell has been pleased with Wourman’s progress this season.

Junior guard Marcus Wourman (2) has been a steadying influence in the Trojan backcourt this season. (Photo by Gary Caldwell)

“Last year people saw a shell of Marcus,” Mitchell said. “He was injured, he was sick. He had mono, he had a heel injury, a knee injury. He just wasn’t himself physically. When you’re not one hundred percent healthy, it’s tough.”

Mitchell, in his second year at the Trojan helm, was happy — and a bit relieved — to complete the season sweep of the Panthers.

“They make you work. It’s super hard but you have to be dialed in,” Mitchell said. “My guys, for twenty-eight minutes, were locked in. We gave them a few easy ones at the end but they’re tough to defend.”

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