Alexis Russell hopped into the driver’s seat for the Mendon girls basketball team on Friday night and slammed on the gas.
Russell scored 10 of her 12 points in the first quarter alone en route to a 50-34 victory over Bronson on Senior Night, which closed the book on the Hornets’ 6-0 run through the St. Joseph Valley League slate and a conference title in the final year of the league’s existence.
Russell scored all but two of her team’s points in the opening frame, where the Hornets carved out a 12-2 lead.
“We were really determined that this last league championship for the SJV wasn’t shared,” Russell said. “It would have been a real bummer.”
Brooke Howard took it from there. After going scoreless in the first quarter, Howard heated up and poured in a game-high 23 points and added seven boards.
“We had to beat [Bronson] to have [the title] outright,” Mendon coach Leasa Griffith said. “That was kind of our motivation … we don’t like to share. There were some frustrating moments for the girls and we had to play through them. That was good for us, I thought, coming together and just working through those things.”
The Hornets improved to 16-2 overall, and even with another banner to hang on the gymnasium wall, Griffith said her girls, focused on bigger prizes, weren’t exactly bouncing off the locker room walls in celebration.
“They were not very happy,” Griffith said. “They didn’t feel they played as well as they could have. I thought defensively at times we looked very good, and at times defensively we didn’t look like we knew what we were doing. I think that’s the way they felt as well. I said, ‘Hey, it’s a league championship.’ They said, ‘Yep.’ It was like now we need to get back to work and get ready for next week.”
Added Russell: “We always expect above and beyond from ourselves. Sometimes we’re not happy with the way it comes out. Once we get into district play we’ll start to get more excited about wins. That’s when it really matters.”
Mendon hosts a Class C district next week and the Hornets have a first-round bye. They’ll play the winner of Monday’s game between Reading and Hillsdale in the semifinals.
Grace Leighton added 10 points in the SJV championship-clinching victory while Cierra Furlong had three points and Jenna Griffith added two. Griffith was a beast on defense with eight steals and she also led in assists with five.
“Defensively, I thought we were moving our feet and getting out on the shooters for the most part of the game,” Leasa Griffith said.
“We are happy to have won the final SJV title, but that is only one of the goals we have set for ourselves this season. Now, we need to focus on the upcoming week of districts.”