March 10, 2009

Central Lake, Hines too much for best ever Eagles squad


TRAVERSE CITY — It didn't take Arenac Eastern's girls’ basketball team long to find out that Central Lake had more weapons in its arsenal than standout center Jasmine Hines.

The Eagles did all they could to defend Hines — her 22 points tied her season low — but weren't able to solve Central Lake's defense until too late. The Trojans ended Eastern's best ever girls’ basketball season 48-37 in Tuesday's Class D regional semifinal, but not without a battle.

"I'm pleased with the way we played, other than the second quarter," said AE coach Butch Beckham. "We just couldn't score. We had our opportunities, but we didn't take advantage of them.

"Overall, though, we gave a real good accounting of ourselves."

The focus of the Eagles was, of course, Hines, a 6-3 center who to Northeast Michigan basketball fans resembles both in size and ability Tawas Area's Rachel Adaline. AE had Hines frustrated in the early going with a 1-1-3 zone, and she managed just one basket in the first quarter.

But with all the attention leveled at Hines, other Central Lake players had their chances to shine. After AE took an early 5-2 lead, Michelle Edwards tied it with a 3-pointer and Heidi Hicks hit three consecutive jumpers to offset consecutive baskets by AE's Chelsea Dery.

But then the well went dry for AE. After Dery tied it at 9-9, Central Lake reeled off 14 straight points while shutting out the Eagles for nearly eight minutes. Maddie Nelson, Chelsea Dery and Briana Dery piled up seven fouls, the defense was forced out of necessity to loosen up, and Hines scored seven points — along with a pair of Edwards' treys — during the run.

Brianna Dery scored at the halftime buzzer, but AE trailed 26-14 at the break.

"The fouls really hurt us," Beckham said. "It was the first time we'd played full-court man defense all year and I thought we did a pretty good job of it. We didn't have enough fouls to give."

By late in the third quarter, Central Lake had a 35-16 lead and looked ready to put the game away, and the prospects looked even direr when Nelson and Briana Dery fouled out early in the fourth.

But AE ratcheted up its backcourt pressure and started forcing turnovers. Chelsea Dery scored five straight points to get AE to within 37-28 with three minutes to go, and the Eagles twice had chances to cut the deficit to seven but couldn't convert.

Ashley Navarre, who had five fourth quarter points, gave the Eagles one last chance with a 3-point play with 1:04 left that cut it to 42-33, but Hines and teammate Sheila Crouse drilled 6-of-6 free throws down the stretch to keep the Eagles at bay.

Edwards finished with 11 points for Central Lake (19-4), which takes on unbeaten, top-ranked Johannesburg-Lewiston in Thursday's regional championship game.

Chelsea Dery led AE (18-4) with 11, with Navarre and Nelson adding six apiece.

Both teams featured plenty of youth -- Hines is just a sophomore, while the Eagles will lose Marcy Langstaff but no one else to graduation. It's quite possible the two could meet again under similar circumstances next season.

"I figured next year would really be our year," Beckham said. "We exceeded my expectations for this season. The girls did a great job. Now we'll see how much we can improve by next year."


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