Trojans Tumble in Regional Semifinal Loss to Coldwater

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Tuesday, March 12, 2019, 8:51 am
Mark Meyer

East Lansing’s Sanaya Gregory (4) applies defensive pressure to Coldwater’s Mia Rzepka during their Class A regional semifinal Monday at Caledonia High School. Coldwater won 71-68 to advance to the regional championship game Wednesday against DeWitt. (Photo by Fletcher Wyble)

Thirty-one minutes and 56 seconds of back-and-forth, win-or-go-home regional semifinal basketball came down to one last shot for the East Lansing girls.

Life on the postseason tournament trail was at its helter-skelter best – and worst – for the Trojan girls Monday against Coldwater, and it ended much too soon when Soraya Timms’ last-second attempt to tie the game from three-point territory bounded off the rim as time expired.

The scoreboard’s final tally – Coldwater 71, East Lansing 68 – indicated who would advance to meet DeWitt in Wednesday’s regional final but it lacked the detail that made this game one that spun in a multitude of directions, including:

  • East Lansing junior forward Ahlura Lofton’s relentless play in the fourth quarter, when she scored nine points in three minutes to help erase a 54-46 deficit and forge a tie at 59 with 5:25 to play;
  • The twine-snapping outside shooting of Coldwater’s senior guard Samantha Rodesiler and junior guard Carlee Crabtree, who combined to make six of their eight attempts outside the three-point arc, and 16 of 23 from the floor for the game;
  • Trojan junior forward Aaliyah Nye being whistled for three fouls in two minutes in the fourth quarter, including her fifth foul with 4:45 to play and the game tied at 61. Nye tied both Rodesiler and Crabtree for high-scoring honors with 21 before being ushered to the bench;
  • Coldwater – which improved to 22-1 after having lost the regional final to East Lansing last year – outrebounded the Trojans 40-25, including a game-high 13 by senior forward Tyler Scheid;
  • The resiliency of East Lansing freshman center Ella Miller, who scored six key points in the second half before being smacked in the jaw by an errant Coldwater elbow.

East Lansing’s Aaliyah Nye (32) defends against a shot attempt by Coldwater’s Carlee Crabtree (30). (Photo by Fletcher Wyble)

“Being down by 15 … to battle back in an atmosphere like this was unbelievable, especially with a young team like ours,” said East Lansing head coach Rob Smith, whose team finished the season with a 20-3 record. “This is going to hurt for a really, really long time, because we had to finish the game without Aaliyah Nye, who is probably going to be a Miss Basketball candidate next year.

“The part I appreciate the most about the kids is that when that happened, not one person hung their head. They kept battling, they kept fighting, and they had a chance at the end. Just a great high school basketball game, an awesome meeting in a regional semi.”

Crabtree made all three of her three-point attempts in the second quarter, in which the Cardinals outscored East Lansing 17-6.

“Coldwater got some things in the first half that we normally don’t give up, and they made a lot of first half them – six threes (total) in the first half,” Smith said. “Let’s give them credit. They played hard and they’re well-coached. They’ll be very competitive with DeWitt on Wednesday.”

If there’s any consolation for the Trojans in bowing out of the postseason, it’s that Smith can look forward to having all of his players back next season. Whereas Coldwater had three seniors in its starting lineup, East Lansing’s consisted of four juniors and a freshman.

“I’m proud of the way the girls have worked all year, their chemistry and their love for one another,” Smith said. “It’s really uplifting in this day and age, and very motivating as a coach. I look forward to practice every day with these girls.

“The biggest disappointment right now is that we won’t be practicing (today) like we had hoped.”

Therein lies the fall-out of the postseason, like a game-tying shot that bounds off the rim.

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