By Blake Froling
The crowning night of the Saginaw Valley League season did not disappoint.
The Carman-Ainsworth girls defeated Dow 46-44 and the Grand Blanc boys took down undefeated Mount Pleasant 74-60 to win the SVL Championship. It was both teams’ first league title.
Defense Prevails In Girls’ Championship
Carman-Ainsworth and Dow started the night with a stingy defensive battle, ending the first quarter tied at six. Both teams mixed zone defenses into their gameplans and it confounded the offenses early on.
Co-SVL South MVPs Aaliyah McQueen and Chenelle King were held scoreless in the first half, but their teammates filled the scoring void. Freshman Armoni Strozier and senior Arie Lewis chipped in 13 of the Cavs’ 18 first half points to help Carman-Ainsworth take an 18-14 lead into halftime.
The third quarter belonged to Dow’s Jada Garner. She showed the packed crowd why she was named SVL North MVP by scoring Dow’s first seven points of the quarter, almost single-handedly keeping the Chargers in the game. Carman-Ainsworth’s balanced scoring attack helped them preserve the lead 30-25 going into the final quarter.
McQueen may have been quiet in the first three quarters but she caught fire in the fourth, knocking down three triples to push the Cavaliers to a 45-35 lead with 2:52 left in the game.
With the game nearly out of reach, Dow made its final push. Katelyn Murray, who had been scoreless all night, hit a pair of threes to trim the lead and Garner added a three of her own. All of the sudden the deficit was down to three with less than a minute left.
King went to the free throw line with 8.6 seconds left for a 1-and-1 opportunity and the Cavs up 45-42. She missed the free throw but Lewis snagged the offensive rebound a drew a foul a second later. She went made one of two to extend the lead to four.
Garner made things interesting in the closing seconds as she picked up an and-1 with 0.6 seconds left, but Dow couldn’t get the tip-in from the missed free throw at the buzzer.
Carman-Ainsworth had made the SVL Championship Game in the last three years and lost every time, including to Dow last year.
Carman-Ainsworth Final Stats
Aaliyah McQueen: 12 points
Arie Lewis: 10 points
Armoni Strozier: 9 points
Chenelle King: 6 points
Jessiana Aaron: 5 points
DeAndrea Smith: 4 points
Dow Final Stats
Jada Garner: 20 points
Alexa Kolnitys: 7 points
Katelyn Murray: 6 points
Alyssa Keptner: 6 points
Chloe McVey: 3 points
Abby Rey: 2 points
Grand Blanc Runs Away in Fourth Quarter
Game one was all about defense and game two was all about offense.
Mount Pleasant senior Tyrone Rios fueled an early run with two threes and the Oilers took a 15-12 lead into the second quarter. Then Grand Blanc exploded.
Freshman RJ Taylor, who made the SVL South second team, erupted for 11 points in the second quarter. He knocked down two threes and controlled the offense with the poise of a senior. Mark Miller and Ty Rodgers combined for 12 more points and the Bobcats outscored the Oilers 30-14 in the second quarter. SVL North MVP Joe Ostrowsky was held to just two points in the first half and Grand Blanc led 42-29 at halftime.
Mount Pleasant didn’t go down without a fight. The Oilers started the third on a 16-8 run and cut the lead to six going into the fourth quarter. That’s as close as they would get.
Miller and Rodgers started to impose their will in the fourth quarter as the Oilers started to get into foul trouble. Kevin Rice also added two threes in the final frame to blow the game wide open.
The win marked Grand Blanc’s first SVL Championship since joining the league. Mount Pleasant has now lost back-to-back championship games.
Grand Blanc Final Stats
Mark Miller: 18 points
Ty Rodgers: 15 points
RJ Taylor: 15 points
Nate Brown: 13 points
Kevin Rice: 8 points
Amonte’ Allen-Johnson: 4 points
Austin Perry: 1 point
Mount Pleasant Final Stats
Joe Ostrowsky: 12 points
Mason Wojtusik: 10 points
Jack Payton: 9 points
Alec Mills: 8 points
Tyrone Rios: 8 points
Tyler Huenemann: 6 points
Carter Nostrant: 3 points
Josh Schell: 2 points
Mark Goenner: 2 points