Greenhills wins first title, downs Kalamazoo Hackett, 1-0
Rochester Hills - Ann Arbor Greenhills solidified the old statement that defense wins championships.
The fifth-ranked Gryphons captured their first state title in school history Saturday at Rochester Stoney Creek, stymieing high-powered and fourth-ranked Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Central to win the Division 4 crown, 1-0.
Hackett came in with two 40-plus goal scorers in Brennan Creek (40 goals, 37 assists) and Maxwell Keenan (41 goals, 14 assists), but were stymied the stellar play of the Greenhills defense, anchored by Chidera Ikeji.
The win validated over three decades of consistently being a top 20 small-school program. The Gryphons had previously lost in a final three times (1992, ‘09 and ’10) and were knocked out in a state semifinal twice in the past decade, including last year to eventual champion Burton Genesee Christian.
“I was here in 2010 when we lost in the finals,” said Lucian Popescu. “This was a physical game and I thought we did a great job defensively on them. We approached today with a little bit more discipline and played very aggressive in the second half. And our defense shut them down."
The game was delayed 88 minutes due to lightning during halftime. The Gryphons (20-6-1) scored the game’s only tally in the second half and keep the explosive Irish off the scoreboard down the stretch.
Senior forward Jerry Tucker scored with 24 minutes left in the second half. Following a nice individual effort to earn a corner kick, senior midfielder Matthew Humphrey sent a low bending corner to the 6-yard mark and Tucker used his hip to knock the ball into the net from close range.
“I put the most I had into it. It’s not the first one I scored off my hip,” Tucker said. “But this was the biggest.”
Junior Leo Fried notched four saves for the Gryphons’ fourth consecutive shutout, the fifth of the postseason and 13th of the campaign. The win is the largest in program history.
“This does validate everything our program has done in the past, and everything in the future,” Tucker said.
Hackett outscored the opposition, 115-23, this season but was held scoreless twice all season. Hackett tied Mattawan, the defending Division 2 state champion Mattawan, 0-0.
The Gryphons posted a 8-6 shots edge, although Greenhills had a 5-4 advantage with shots on frame and a 7-3 edge on corner kicks.
“(Greenhills) did a very good job clogging up the middle of the field. They cleared away every dangerous ball that we got into the box and we cut off every final connecting pass. We couldn’t find it,” said Hackett coach Ian Troutman. “We’re not used to that. We’re used to the major of t possession and attacking the goal. I thought they did a great job doing that.
“It’s disappointing that we got here twice in three years but couldn’t bring home a title. But credit to Greenhills to the way they played."