Ypsilanti Arbor Prep advances to state finals for third straight year with 54-46 win over Freeland
East Lansing – In the previous two seasons, Ypsilanti Arbor Prep put together proved to be a dominant force in the Class C ranks, advancing to the state finals twice and winning a state championship in 2016.
And while the Gators moved up to Class B for the 2016-17 season, they once again find themselves in the state finals as Arbor Prep picked up a 54-46 win over Freeland on Friday night.
In the Class B final, Arbor Prep (27-0) will meet Detroit Country Day, who topped Marshall in its semifinal on Friday, on Saturday at 6:00pm at the Breslin Center in East Lansing.
Arbor Prep head coach Rod Wells said that for his team to move up to Class B presented a new challenge for the Gators this winter and with a new challenge, came a new goal.
“Class B to me is a little more difficult,” he said. “It was a different challenge which I think made us more focused because we were Class C state champs and with having to go to Class B, it gave us a different goal because we know we won Class C, but we didn’t win Class B. We’re not the Class B state champions, so that gave us something to go for right from the beginning of the season, that was one of our goals, to win a state championship in Class B.”
After Freeland (26-1) cut the Arbor Prep lead down to just two, 32-30 early in the third quarter, Arbor Prep would begin pulling away as the Gators closed out the third quarter on a 10-3 run, behind four points from senior Lauryn Carroll, giving Arbor Prep a 42-34 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
But Freeland would respond in the fourth quarters, as the Falcons cut the deficit all the way back down to just three, 49-46 behind the 3-point shooting of Jessica Piper and Kaylee Argyle.
Freeland head coach Tom Zolinski said that he was very confident in his team’s outside shooting ability being able to keep his team in games, and credited that for the late comeback attempt.
“I’m the one telling them to shoot, I’m on the sidelines yelling ‘Shoot, shoot, shoot’,” he said. “It’s been like that all year. This team at any point can score 20 points in five minutes and I think that’s half the reason we didn’t give up, because we knew our firepower and what we’re able to do.”
Piper finished with a game-high 18 points to lead the way for Freeland.
But the Gators would use late, clutch free throw shooting from Carroll and Mahri Petrie to hold off Freeland’s late push.
Ro’zhane Wells finished with a team-high 14 points to pace Arbor Prep, while Cydney Williams and Adrienne Williams each added in 10 points.
With Arbor Prep now looking for a second straight title, Wells credited his team’s senior class, which helped lead the Gators to becoming a perennial contender statewide.
“We had a really emotional practice the other day,” he said. “It kind of choked me up a little bit because these girls are just a special group of girls and I really know that I’m not going to get another four-year group of girls like this probably ever again, that brings it like they bring it.”