Trojans Make Chandler Park Pay for Its Generosity

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Tuesday, January 28, 2020, 7:30 am
Mark Meyer

Senior guard Sanaya Gregory converted 9 of 12 free-throw attempts in the fourth quarter Monday night to lead the Trojans to their 11th victory of the season. (Photos by Gary Caldwell)

The best things in life are free, or so goes the Motown hit produced by Berry Gordy and sung by Barrett Strong in the early 1960s.

Free — as in free throws — were the best thing going for the East Lansing girls basketball team in a rare Monday night home against nonleague foe Chandler Park Academy. The Trojans won 63-57 by making 21 of 26 from the charity stripe, including 13 of 16 in the fourth quarter.

Senior guard Sanaya Gregory converted 9 of her 12 attempts in the final eight minutes of play while fellow senior guard Sug Williams was a perfect 8 for 8, making four free throws each in the third and fourth quarters.

Gregory and senior guard Aaliyah Nye led the Trojans (now 11-1 overall) in scoring with 17 points apiece while Williams (below), who flirted with early foul trouble, finished with 11 points.

East Lansing head coach Rob Smith was quick to applaud both Gregory and Williams for their sharpshooting from 15 feet, as well as their ability to control the ball while being hounded by Chandler Park’s swarming pressure defense.

“I thought Sanaya Gregory and Sug Williams really stepped up for us,” Smith said. “They did a wonderful job in the second half handling their press, and their free-throw shooting was nearly perfect.”

“They [Chandler Park] got us frustrated early, even with a ten-point lead,” Smith (below) added, “because we’re used to handling the ball pretty efficiently against most teams. This team made us feel uncomfortable. So a great lesson for us to play against that style of basketball.”

Not surprisingly, Chandler Park head coach Dave Mann lamented his team’s generosity in allowing East Lansing to score that many uncontested points.

“Overall, it was a good effort,” Mann said, “but we have to become more disciplined with our hands [defensively] because we let it become a free-throw contest in the fourth quarter. We just gave them too many points at the line.”

Chandler Park, a charter school in the Detroit suburb of Harper Woods, trailed 50-37 after three quarters but gradually worked its way back into striking range when junior guard Taliah Wickett drained a trey with just over a minute to play, cutting the Trojans’ lead to 59-55.

On the ensuing possession, Chandler Park was whistled for a hand check and then Mann was issued a technical foul for disputing the call. Gregory responded by sinking three of four free throws with 1:02 remaining to ensure the victory.

“We’re much more effective when we get to the right spots on defense by moving our feet and not our hands,” Mann said.

Junior guard Allie Mayes looks for an opening toward the basket Monday night.

East Lansing, which travels to Waverly for a CAAC Blue matchup at 6 p.m. Friday, relied on a compact rotation of seven players in the second half. Sophomore Soraya Timms was out of the lineup due to the flu while senior guard Ahlura Lofton was limited to just seven minutes of playing time.

“Things got a little messy,” Smith said, “for a variety of reasons, but we were able to work through it. That’s a very well-coached team that we played, and very athletic. The bonus is that we don’t see many teams like that during the regular season who play with that much energy. Hopefully we learned from our mistakes and will continue to progress toward our goals of winning the conference championship and advancing in the postseason.”

  • East Lansing leads the CAAC Blue with a 6-0 mark. The Trojans will host DeWitt, currently in second place at 5-1, on Feb. 7.
  • The East Lansing boys (9-1 overall) return to action at 7 p.m. tonight in a nonleague game against Marshall at the ELHS gymnasium.
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