In Play with Tom Markowski

Cousino wins first title, will return a veteran team

Basketball   | Tom Markowski

Cousino wins first title, will return a veteran team

 

East Lansing – Warren Cousino sits atop the world of girls basketball after the Patriots won the school’s first state title on Saturday.

Cousino defeated perennial power Detroit King, 67-65, in the Class A title game to become just the fourth Macomb County school to win a state title.

Utica won the Class A title in 1999, Warren Woods won the Class B title in 1975 and Mount Clemens (now Harrison Township) L’Anse Creuse won the Class B title in ’78.

Many programs have claimed one title. The question for Mike Lee is how, as head coach, one sustains this success. The challenge has been placed down. So how does Lee and those returning respond?

“This can only make us better,” Lee said. “We lose Mackenzie Anderson and that’s it.”

That’s a start. Cousino (23-4) will return every player on its roster except Anderson. Anderson played a key role on this ride, on and off the court. She had 20 points and six rebounds in the final, and displayed leadership qualities all season.

The x-factor is Kierra Fletcher, a 5-9 junior who is undoubtedly a Miss Basketball candidate for 2017. Fletcher had 64 points in the two games, Friday and Saturday, at the Breslin Center.

An unselfish player, Fletcher has a magnificent mid-range jumper and has the elusive qualities that immediately draw attention, from opposing coaches and fans alike.

“Knowing we only lose one senior will drive us a lot,” Fletcher said. “We’ll have ninety-five percent of our team back. If we can find someone to replace Mackenzie we’ll be fine.

“This is definitely motivation for me. I want to be in this position again.”

Another starter returning will be freshman Kate McArthur. The team’s top perimeter shooter, McArthur was 4-of-8 from the 3-point range against King and had 13 points.

“Coach Lee is always honest about staying humble,” McArthur said. “This year we learned a lot from our faults. Even though we won states we’re going to come back with more intensity.”

Also returning will be McArthur’s sister, Erin, who will be a senior. Erin McArthur suffered a season-ending torn ACL during the second day of practice.

It’s apparent that’s this wasn’t a fluke. Cousino gained experience by playing in the highly-competitive Macomb Area Conference Red Division, a division that sported another Class A quarterfinalist (Port Huron Northern) this season. Division member Grosse Pointe South reached the Class A final in 2013 and ’14.

Yes, this season was the first time Cousino won a region title but since Lee became head coach in 2009 the Patriots have shown steady improvement. Once a member of the MAC White, Cousino moved up to the Red Division two years ago.

Though the junior varsity didn’t achieve much success this season (there were two freshmen and three sophomores on varsity), the freshmen team finished 15-5.

“And the eighth grade team at Carter (Middle School) had some talent,” Lee said. “They want to be Cousino basketball players.”

Lee is a teacher at Carter, one of two middle schools that feed Cousino. The other is Carleton Middle School. He recalls a skinning sixth grader in the fall of ’10 who boasted she would start for Lee in three years, her freshman season. That student was Fletcher.

“I saw her in eighth grade play,” Lee said. “And I said she’s good.”

Fletcher has started every game on varsity in her three seasons. And we can only imagine what type of season Fletcher and her team will have next season. A return trip to the Breslin Center is now a distinct possibility.