AE girls make school history
ARENAC EASTERN — Arenac Eastern made a shiny new addition to its groundbreaking season on Wednesday: its first-ever girls basketball district championship trophy.
Already riding high with a school-record in wins and a second-place finish in the North Star League, the Eagles left nothing to chance against surging Fairview, taking a 23-12 halftime lead and taking a 46-34 victory. The win also earns a trip to the Traverse City West regional on Tuesday, March 10, against either Central Lake or Ellsworth.
"It's been a long time coming for this school," said AE coach Butch Beckham. "It was a nice game and great for the kids.
"I felt like we pretty much controlled the game. It was a good game for us, for the school and community."
Eastern's primary task on defense was to control Fairview's Kayla Weaver, who had turned in a number of 20-point, 20-rebound performances to lead her squad to 12 wins in its last 15 games.
"The kids were always aware of where she was," Beckham said. "We made sure we boxed her out so she couldn't get all those rebounds, and we tried to make sure we stayed right up in their shooters' faces."
Weaver had Fairview's lone field goal in the first quarter as AE rolled to an 11-4 lead. Eastern expanded that lead to 11 points at the half as Chelsea Dery had seven points and Danielle Jurek added six.
"Danielle was outstanding," Beckham said. "She was pressured the whole game by Fairview's defenders. They threw four different girls at her and I think she only had two turnovers. But just as big she was able to get them into foul trouble.
"She kept her composure and was probably the difference in the game."
Fairview wasn't able to make a serious run at AE in the second half as Dery added another 15 points to maintain the lead. Eastern led by 15 before Fairview hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer for the game's final score.
"Everyone stepped up," Beckham said. "Chelsea was scoring, but everyone really contributed. They threw some different defenses at us and we were able to handle them."
Weaver and Kendra Handrich each scored 11 for Fairview, which finished at 12-9 after starting the year 0-5.
Dery led AE (18-3) with 22 points, with Maddie Nelson adding eight as Eastern rose to a height never before seen in its girls basketball program.
"The girls had the opportunity to succeed," Beckham said. "And they did it."