The Kalamazoo Central Maroon Giants definitely lived up to their school nickname Friday night at Mattawan. With a size advantage at nearly every position, the Giants used their height to pick away at Lakeshore’s zone defense and come away with the Class A District crown with a 62-29 victory.
“Our size wore them down a bit, especially in the second half,” said Central coach Jason Plunkett, “But it wasn’t just our size, but our deep bench as well. We don’t lose much when we go to our bench.”
Central got off on the right foot by jumping out to a 6-0 lead just over two minutes into the game, with senior Lakaria Washington hitting two of the first three buckets. Lakeshore seemed to calm down following a timeout and began their quest to catch back up.
“We were a little shaky at first,” said Plunkett, “You could tell we were a little nervous. We had a freshman out there (Moresha Wiggins) who has never been in this situation before, and my seniors did a great job of calming her down.”
All Wiggins had to do to get into her rhythm was watch her senior teammate Washington pick apart the Lakeshore zone defense as the point guard and not only distribute the ball, but also add 15 first half points as the Giants took a 28-19 lead into the locker room at halftime. But Washington and the Giants weren’t satisfied with their first half performance.
“She was absolutely NOT going to be denied tonight.” Plunkett said, “At halftime, the game was still in doubt… she went into the locker room and took over the locker room and made sure her teammates knew she wasn’t going home yet.”
Coming out of the locker room, Central shored up their defense, allowing only one third quarter bucket from the floor 2:25 into the quarter, and started to pull away from the Lancers. Lakeshore would add four free throws, but the Giants, behind 6 (third quarter) points from Wiggins and 5 points from Markela Woodson, would extend their lead to 44-25 heading into the fourth quarter.
“To have three girls (Washington, Wiggins, Woodson) who can play extremely well and step up when necessary,” said Plunkett,”It really makes it hard for other teams to defend.”
While the Central’s big three was doing their share of scoring and passing, it was the under the basket play from senior Makenna Wilson that helped the Giants maintain control of the game.
“She (Wilson) is one of the most underrated players in the area,” said Plunkett, “she does everything I could ask of her, and she was big for us down low tonight.”
Lakeshore came out in the fourth quarter and scored an early bucket, but then when ice cold from the floor, and went nearly 5 minutes before scoring their next, and final, basket of the game.
Meanwhile, Wiggins continued using her second half hot hand to add another 6 points while the some of the other Giants got in on the fun before the final buzzer sounded and they claimed their fifth district title in a row.
“It’s the program’s fifth in a row,” said (first year coach) Plunkett, “But my first. I’m proud of these girls, but we know we aren’t done yet.”
“We’re coming in for individual workouts tomorrow,” said Plunkett, “And Sunday we’ll start working on our game plan for Tuesday night.”
The Giants (17-3) will play #2 ranked East Lansing Tuesday night at Loy Norrix in the first round of regional play. East Lansing (22-0) defeated Dewitt (21-2) 50-38 Friday night at Owosso.
Kalamazoo Central Scoring
Lakaria Washington – 17
Morasha Wiggins – 15
Markela Woodson – 9
Makenna Wilson – 6
Talia Edmonds – 5
Santeya Scott – 4
Cerica Finjap – 3
Novia Rolland – 2
#15 – 2
Recap and photos by Brett Beier