East Kentwood goes cold in state title

East Kentwood goes cold in first state final

EAST LANSING, MICH. - No ranking. No problem.

The Flushing girls basketball team, which spent the entire season unranked, bulldozed through the Class A state tournament, capping its run with a 49-38 win over East Kentwood in today's final at the Breslin Center.

The Raiders (24-3), who last advanced to the state semifinals in 1976, had never played in a girls basketball final before this season.

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"These girls put their stamp on the program," Flushing coach Larry Ford said. "That stamp can never be removed."

The Raiders used the rankings -- or lack thereof -- as motivation. East Kentwood (26-2) was No. 9 in the Associated Press' final Class A poll before the state tournament.

"We were like, 'Let's go out there and show them. We're always the underdog,'" said Raiders senior forward Breanna Perry, who finished with 12 points, 13 rebounds and four steals. "We wanted to get some respect. That made us play even harder."

Ford wasn't sure if teams overlooked his squad. Flushing lost to St. John, 37-31, in last year's district final.

"The girls didn't dwell on it, but it did come up a few times," Ford said of not cracking the rankings. "It's always nice to tell people that you're one of the top teams in the state. But we just try to go with the flow."

Flushing, which held a 19-17 halftime lead, outscored the Falcons ,17-9, in the third quarter to take command. Senior guard Lauren Newman scored 19 points in the win.

"We could feel it in the second half," said Perry, a Temple signee. "We were like, 'We're almost there.' That lit a fire under us."

East Kentwood, which also said it felt disrespected at times, couldn't get closer in the fourth quarter, snapping its 25-game winning streak.

“I’m really proud of our team,” said East Kentwood senior Andraya Johnson, who had four points and six rebounds. “We went from being an unranked team to being second in the state. That’s a pretty big deal, even though we didn’t win.”

Flushing's defense limited the Falcons to 16 of 57 shooting for the game. East Kentwood junior center Corinne Jemison finished with 12 points and six rebounds.

"We talk about never underestimate the power of being underestimated," Ford said. "Maybe that was part of it."

The Raiders never got overwhelmed playing at the Breslin Center. Flushing beat defending Class A champion Warren Cousino, 52-36, in Friday's semifinal.

"We got out here, I looked at the crowd and was like, 'This is a big deal,'" Perry said. "We had tons of people here supporting us, and it really opened my eyes. Not only did our team really want this, but our school did, too."

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