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Hamady leads by 16 early then holds on to upset Arbor Prep, 50-46, in Class C semifinal

Basketball   | Jeff Dullack

Hamady leads by 16 early then holds on to upset Arbor Prep, 50-46, in Class C semifinal

East Lansing – The name of the game in March is survive and advance, and in the final minutes of its Class C semifinal against Ypsilanti Arbor Prep, survive is just what Flint Hamady did.

Hamady, which led by as many as 16 in the second half, watched its lead dwindle to just two late in the fourth quarter, but the Hawks held on behind late free throws to defeat the Gators, 50-46, on Thursday at the Breslin Center.

No. 5-ranked Hamady (25-1) will play unranked Calumet (23-2) for the title on Saturday at 4 p.m.

Hamady won titles in 1983, ’09 and ’10. Calumet is making its first final appearance.

Hamady coach Keith Smith said that his team’s dominant effort in the first half didn’t surprise him because of their disciplined play, and that Arbor Prep’s second half run didn’t surprise him either.

“It really didn’t, because we were playing under control,” he said. “The pressure they were applying during that time wasn’t as aggressive. We don’t really mind teams pressing us, because we feel we have some skill players. The main thing is just making sure we keep our composure and we had the lead, but I always tell the girls that teams that are here this time of the season are good, they’re not here for nothing. They’re going to have a run in them.”

Hamady led 34-19 early in the third quarter when Arbor Prep responded. The Gators rattled off 10 straight points, eight from junior Nastassja Chambers, and the run was finished off by a Cydney Williams basket to trim the deficit down to 34-29 early in the fourth quarter.

Arbor Prep coach Rod Wells said that the way his team had played in the third quarter was how he’d hoped his team had played from the start, which was the brand of basketball he’s been accustomed to seeing from his team.

“I wish the third quarter was the start,” he said. “If I could have it back, I wish that would be the way that we’d started the game. That was Arbor Prep basketball right there, but we just didn’t have it the whole game, you have to play with intensity for all 32 minutes.”

Arbor Prep (22-4) would then get baskets from Chambers (14 points), as well as Zakiya Wells, to keep within striking distance. After the Hawks pushed their lead back to six on a Deejah Cofield 3-pointer, Payton Sims (eight points) answered with a 3-pointer to keep the deficit at three, 39-36.

After Sims made another 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 43-41, Hamady would get baskets from Aaliah Hill and Krystal Rice to make it 48-42.

Hill said that in the beginning of the game, she and her teammates were playing with plenty of confidence. But after rushing things a bit in the third and early in the fourth quarter, they were able to get back to that type of play.

“In the beginning we had our composure, passing the ball and being patient,” she said. “But when we were in the heat of the moment, trying to get up the floor and try to score, but we had to listen to our coach and calm down. We were in the lead and everything was in our favor, we just had to keep playing, pass the ball and keep working.”

Hill had 16 points and 13 rebounds, Jalisha Terry had 14 points, and Rice chipped in with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

Rice’s two free throws helped seal the win for the Hawks.

Hamady took a 17-11 lead into the second quarter and watched its lead balloon to 16 late in the second quarter after consecutive baskets from Hill, Terry and Rice.

On Wednesday in practice, Hamady used the help of some football players from the school, which was something that Hill said was a big key to their start and play the post.

“It’s a very big confidence boost,” said Hill of her team’s fast start. “In practice, we’ve been practicing against the boys and they’re much faster than us and stronger and it helped to play them and have us try and keep them out of the lane and keep working and do what we could to keep them out of the paint.”?