With League Title in Hand, Trojan Girls Begin Postseason March

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Monday, March 2, 2020, 11:30 am
Mark Meyer

East Lansing senior Sug Williams and her Trojan teammates have won 14 straight games heading into tonight’s district opener at Grand Ledge. (Photos by Jim Pivarnik)

East Lansing girls basketball coach Rob Smith dimmed the lights in the gymnasium late Saturday afternoon. Practice was nearing its end but not before the Trojan players rolled out their yoga mats and began practicing a different set of positions designed to help them relax and concentrate on the task ahead.

As district tournament play begins today statewide the Trojans enter the postseason with a 14-game win streak and ranked third among Division 1 teams, according to the MHSAA’s Michigan Power Rating index. East Lansing has an overall record of 19-1, which includes a perfect 12-0 mark in the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue division. The Trojan girls team has won the league title in 16 of Smith’s 18 seasons as head coach.

“As a player, I remember my coach back then telling us that to win a league title two years in a row was a big deal,” Smith said. “To do it sixteen times over the course of eighteen seasons says an awful lot about the program here at East Lansing, and the athletes who have helped make it happen.”

Senior forward Lamaryee “Sug” Williams transferred into the East Lansing school district at the start of the year. She grew up in Lansing but moved to River Rouge in seventh grade for family reasons. She found out quickly why the Trojans compete for league championships, and why they practice and prepare for games the way they do.

“It’s serious, but it’s a good serious,” said Williams, who has signed a letter of intent to attend and play basketball at Oakland University upon graduation from East Lansing. “It’s really different. I’ve never played on a team like this before. I’ve never had a coach as serious as Coach Smith.”

East Lansing head coach Rob Smith is known for his detailed game plans and his attention to details, especially in practice. “That's how I learned as a player, and I feel it has made a positive difference for the girls basketball program at East Lansing.”

Williams understands the life lessons that Smith preaches on a daily basis.

“Being on time is very important,” she said, “and I’ve learned a lot from teammates. They’ve taught me a lot.”

Williams is one of six seniors who will take the floor at 7 p.m. against Grand Ledge (9-11) in the opening game of the district at Grand Ledge. A victory tonight would earn the Trojans a semifinal date Wednesday against St. Johns (8-12), a team they defeated 75-21 at home on Jan. 21.

Miss Basketball candidate Aaliyah Nye plays on the same AAU team with Williams and is one of the reasons why Williams wanted to transfer into the East Lansing school district. Nye, a four-year starter and the team’s leading scorer with an average of 16.6 points per game, said the Trojans cannot afford to get caught looking ahead in the postseason.

East Lansing senior forward Aaliyah Nye is one of three Miss Basketball finalists in the state of Michigan.

“Last year we started mentally skipping past some teams,” Nye said. “I think it’s important for us to remember that it’s zero-zero now and anybody can go home. We really do have to take it one game at a time, focus on improving our defense and challenging the other team’s shooters on every possession.”

Sophomore guard Soraya Timms, who last Tuesday established a Trojan girls basketball school record for three-point field goals with nine against Heritage High School, feels much healthier now [“I’ve had a lot of time to recover”] than she did earlier this season when she did not play in five games due to injury or illness.

Timms expects Grand Ledge, which has lost twice to East Lansing this season, to bring its best effort in what will be the last game of the season for one of these two teams.

“We need to go pedal to the metal right from the start,” said Timms, who scored a career-high 29 points in her record-setting game at Saginaw. “I expect the same type of intensity from them like the last time we played (a 76-40 East Lansing victory). We’ll need to match that.”

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