AE bounces Lady Wolverines in district play
TWINING — Arenac Eastern kept its record-breaking season alive Monday, winning its district tournament opener against a stubborn AuGres-Sims squad 48-38 to advance to Wednesday's Class D district championship game.
The Eagles and Wolverines were meeting for the fourth time this season and the seventh time in two years, so there weren't any secrets left.
"They know us," said AE coach Butch Beckham, "and we know them. They were ready for us, and I think our kids were ready to tonight too.
“It was a good game; both teams played hard and played pretty well."
It was the most competitive of the teams' meetings this season, all of which AE won.
Unlike those other three, this one was in doubt until the final minute.
"We had a chance to win, which after losing to them three times was what I was hoping for," said AGS coach Gordie Ostrander. "We couldn't quite get all the way back. Eastern's really good, but I felt like we went down fighting and made them earn it."
Eastern looked like it had the game wrapped up as it built a 42-30 lead with two minutes to play.
A rebound basket by Adriane Swaffield, a 15-foot Kelsey Heinrich jumper and Emily Lutz's steal and two free throws cut the lead in half with 1:22 still to play.
The Eagles missed the front ends of two one-and-ones, but AuGres-Sims couldn't capitalize. On the first, Chelsea Dery knifed between a pair of Wolverines to snag an offensive rebound and on the second she forced a turnover under her own basket that led to two Danielle Jurek free throws with 45 seconds let that put the game out of reach.
"Chelsea and Briana were both pretty sick yesterday," Beckham said. "They didn't have much energy, but they made some pretty key plays, and we made some free throws down the stretch."
Briana Dery was the key to getting AE jump-started after the Wolverines opened the game on a roll. Tonie VanSickle, Heinrich and Tasha Trombley opened the game by hitting four straight shots that gave AGS an 8-1 lead. Briana Dery had a basket, then a steal and layup to cut the lead in half. Chelsea Dery hit back-to-back hoops to end the first quarter and lead off the second and give AE its first lead at 11-10.
"I don't know that we could have played much better than we did in the first quarter," Ostrander said, "and we were still even with them."
The Eagles opened up a 23-15 halftime lead, outscoring AGS 12-3 after Swaffield took a seat with her third foul and getting a number of second-chance points. Marcy Langstaff opened the third quarter hitting her first shots as AE opened up a 29-16, but Lutz led AGS back into the game as the Wolverines closed the third quarter on a 9-2 run.
"In hindsight, maybe we should have gone inside more," Ostrander said. "But in our other games we didn't have much success there. They're very tough inside, and their guards are pretty aggressive defensively."
A pair of Briana Dery steals-and-layups and a three-point play by Maddie Nelson opened up a 13-point lead for AE early in the fourth quarter.
"Marcy really stepped up big tonight," Beckham said of his lone senior. "She hit some big shots, and defensively she did a nice job on Emily and not letting her get around to the baseline as much as she wanted.
"This was a good win, but Fairview (Wednesday's championship opponent) is going to be tough."
Briana Dery led AE (17-3) with 14 points, with Chelsey Dery adding nine and Langstaff eight.
Lutz led AGS (12-9) with 13 and Swaffield and Trombley with seven each.
"The girls should be proud of their effort tonight," Ostrander said. "It would have been great to win, but if we're going to lose at least we played well against a good team. I hope they make a nice tournament run."
The Eagles, who have never won a district title, won their first district tournament game since defeating Hale in 1999. AE and Fairview (12-8), which have won 12 of its last 15 games, face off at 7 p.m. in Wednesday's title contest.