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GIRLS BASKETBALL: Saginaw Heritage shuts down Clarkston to reach Final Four

| March 13, 2018 | Comments (0)

BY DAN STICKRADT

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dan.stickradt@northoaklandsports.com

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GRAND BLANC — Saginaw Heritage made believers out of Clarkston Tuesday. The Hawks are truly one of the top teams in state in Class A.

The third-ranked Hawks took control from the beginning of the game and rolled to a convincing 70-25 victory over No. 13 Clarkston in the state quarterfinals at Grand Blanc High School.

Heritage advanced to the Final Four for the first time 2015 and fourth time overall — and did so in convincing fashion.

“I’m not surprised that we won, but I am surprised that we did this in a quarterfinal game against a good team,” said Heritage coach Vonnie DeLong. “We’ve gotten better as he season has moved along.  I think as this tournament has gone on we have gotten better. We’ve had some our best practices the past two weeks, kind of like that first week in November when everyone is really excited.”

Playing a tight-knit six-layer rotation for the first 3.5 quarters, the Hawks shot an impressive 50 percent from the floor (24-for-48) on the night, converted 14-of-20 free throws, forced 22 turnovers and helped keep the Wolves to just six second-half points.

Defensively, Heritage junior guard Moira Joiner drew the assignment of guarding 6-foot sharpshooter Maddie Beck and not allowing the Wolves to get their outside attack going. Beck was held to three free throws and 0-for-9 shooting from the floor.

“She’s up to the challenge. She’s only 5-9 but she’ll guard people that are six-foot, 6-1, 6-2 — it doesn’t matter. She’ll guard anyone,” said DeJong. “Mo had (Beck) most of the game. And I think our speed was a bit of a factor. They have some great bigs, but I think our speed bothered them a little bit.”

Overall, Clarkston was held to just 9-for-37 shooting from the floor (24.4 percent) and made just one three-pointer in 10 attempts. The point total was the Wolves’ lowest of the season.

Clarkston (20-5) reached the quarterfinals for the first time since 2005 but came up short.

“I thought with the way we have been playing that we could play good defense against them. I liked the defensive matchups and I thought they would work. Moira Joiner is an amazing point guard. But I thought we would be able to handle them,” offered Clarkston coach Christine Rogers. “But they are fast and we never got into any type of rhythm.”

Heritage (25-1) raced out  to an 18-7 lead after the first quarter. A 21-12 second-half surge put the Hawks in a comfortable 39-19 lead at the half.

Heritage put the game away with a 22-4 run in the third quarter and even though the Hawks pulled the starters with 6:09 to play, they still closed with a 9-2 spurt in the fourth quarter.

Senior forward Kayla Luchenbach, headed to Division I Oakland University, bowed out with 11 points, five rebounds and four assists for Clarkston. Senior center Molly Nicholson added eight points and eight rebounds for the Wolves.

Joiner finished with 19 points, six rebounds, four steals and three assists to pace Heritage. Junior forward Shine Strickland-Gills added 17 points and four rebounds, senior guard Jessie Bicknell had 13 points, five rebounds and three assists, and junior guard Mallory McCartney chipped in 13 points, four steals, three rebounds and three assists for the Hawks.

Saginaw Heritage will face Grosse Pointe North at 12 noon Friday in the state semifinals at Calvin College in Grand Rapids.

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About Dan Stickradt: DAN STICKRADT | SENIOR EDITOR dan.stickradt@northoaklandsports.com View author profile.

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