One Up, One Down as Trojans Split Home Opener against Williamston
Above: East Lansing head coach Rob Smith draws a play during a timeout Tuesday. The Trojan girls basketball team opened its season with a 59-55 victory over Williamston.
The beauty of opening night, no matter the size of the crowd or the stage, is that it only happens once every season. Most teams learn quickly what parts of their game need work and are thankful for the opportunities ahead to make the necessary adjustments.
The East Lansing High School basketball teams split their assignments Tuesday evening against the visiting Williamston Hornets. The boys dropped the opener, 55-46, while the girls captured the nightcap, 59-55.
For both teams, the room for improvement is limitless.
“We have a young team and we have to learn to play together and execute,” said first-year boys head coach Ray Mitchell, whose starting lineup included sophomores Andrel Anthony, Marcus Wourman and Ethan Boyd. “It’s really pretty cut-and-dried.”
The Trojan girls starting lineup comprised three juniors, a sophomore and a freshman.
“I felt like we were step slow,” said Rob Smith, now in his 17th season as head coach of the girls team. “Being a young team (there are no seniors on this year’s roster), there’s a lot to learn and it’s going to take a lot of teaching."
“We were very reserved defensively. There were plenty of times when we didn’t close traps when we should have. I thought we would play better, that we would play faster. But really, a win is a win even if you don’t play your best game.”
The girls’ game see-sawed for much of the evening. The teams were tied at 13 after one quarter, even at 28 at halftime. The Trojans trailed 36-30 midway through the third quarter but then scored 13 of the next 17 points to lead 43-40.
Junior forward Aaliyah Nye made two free throws and sophomore Annelise Lebeda converted four in a row from the charity stripe with less than 30 seconds to play as Williamston waited as long as it could before fouling.
Nye led East Lansing in scoring with 14 points while junior guard Sanaya Gregory tallied 11. Ten of the 13 Trojan players scored at least two points, as Smith rotated his lineup frequently throughout the game.
On the boys side, a haphazard third quarter followed on the heels of a play at the end of the first half that gave the visiting Hornets the charge they needed heading into the locker room. After Ethan Boyd’s free throw increased the East Lansing lead to 25-16 with less than three seconds to play in the second quarter, Williamston inbounded the ball to freshman guard Mason Docks who then sprinted and released a desperation half-court attempt at the buzzer – and it dropped for three points.
“We played a lot of one-on-one in the third quarter, and you can’t win at this level without sharing the ball,” Mitchell said. “Our poor execution – one pass and a bad shot – made things very difficult against a state-ranked team like Williamston.”
The Hornets erased the halftime deficit and then some by attacking the interior of the Trojans’ defense. Sean Cobb, a 6-foot-7 senior forward who has committed to Grand Valley State, scored six of his game-high 17 points in the third frame as Williamston turned a six-point deficit into a four-point lead. Williamston also converted nine of 12 free-throw attempts in the second half, including six of six by 6-foot-6 senior center Case Conley.
Anthony scored seven of his 11 points in the fourth quarter for the Trojans to tie for team-high scoring honors with senior Jack Morse.
Next up: Both East Lansing teams travel to Waverly Friday night for a doubleheader with the Warriors. Boys tip off at 6 p.m., girls follow at 7:45 p.m.