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Saginaw Heritage starts fast, holds off Country Day for 39-29 win at the Motor City Roundball Classic

Basketball   | Jeff Dullack

State Champs! Sports Network

Detroit – After an extended break, it’s not uncommon for teams to shake off a bit of rust in their first game back.

But for Saginaw Heritage, that wasn’t the case on Tuesday afternoon as the Hawks, ranked No. 1 in the most recent State Champs! Rankings, faced the No. 2 team in the state, Detroit Country Day.

Playing in its first game in 12 days, Heritage sprinted out to a 12-0 lead and never looked back, picking up a 39-29 win over Country Day at Detroit Edison high school in the 21st annual Motor City Roundball Classic.

Heritage coach Yvonne DeLong said that jumping out to the early lead against a top team like Country Day was important for the Hawks.

“It was huge,” she said. “Country Day is so good, that you have to have a lead on them, because they’re so good and so used to winning, they know they can still win that game even though they’re down. I couldn’t get up by enough in my head to feel safe.”

After just over four minutes of play in the first quarter, Heritage (6-0) had already built a comfortable 12-0 lead over Country Day, behind 6 points from Mo Joiner.

Joiner said that her team’s practices right after the holiday played a big role in her and her teammates being prepared for Tuesday’s game.

“It was extremely important,” She said. “We had a few days off and we practiced right after Christmas and we worked hard at it and we didn’t stop. We were going to win this game.”

Country Day (6-1) would cut the Heritage lead down to 12-5 after a Destiny Pitts 3-pointer, but a basket from Joiner to end the first quarter, followed by a Mallory McCartney basket and a pair of free throws from Jaela Richardson would give the Hawks an 18-7 lead early on in the second quarter.

DeLong credited her team’s defense for being able to prevent Country Day from getting to the basket and instead settling for contested outside shots.

“That’s what we try to do to everybody,” she said. “We play a matchup zone, a 2-3 zone, but we matchup and people get confused. Nobody plays in a zone and the kids don’t know how to attack it, and we’re pretty big on our wings, so when you’ve got people flying at you with their hands up, you have to think twice about shooting.”

In the third quarter, Heritage would push its lead to 30-15 after back-to-back baskets from Joiner and Jenna Falkenberg. The Yellowjackets would managae to cut the deficit down to just eight midway through the fourth quarter after a 9-2 run started by a Maxine Moore basket and capped off by a 3-pointer from Kaela Webb to make it 32-24.

Country Day coach Frank Orlando said that his team has started slow in a fair number of games this season, and said that he’d like to see his team start out games similar to how the Yellowjackets played towards the end of Tuesday’s game going forward.

“In the bigger type games, we’ve started slow in every game,” he said. “So they’re going to learn that we’re going to have to play the way we played in the last four or five minutes of the game, we have to play like that in the first four minutes of the game.”

But Heritage would hold off Country Day behind a basket from Richardson to end the 9-2 run and the Hawks would convert on five of their final six free throw attempts.