BY WENDI REARDON PRICE
Clarkston News Sports Writer
Enthusiastic cheers greeted the Wolves as they defeated three teams to win the MHSAA Division 1 Girls Basketball District 5 crown last Friday.
The girls were proud and smiling as they left the locker room especially after they lost their first round in the district playoffs last season.
“We have grown so much as a team,” senior Taylor Heaton said about the last year. “Not only grown as basketball players, but we have grown closer as a team so our chemistry is so much better this year. At the end of the year no one thought much of us. We came out this year and showed them who we are.”
“It was nice to come back and win it,” added sophomore Maddy Skorupski. “We worked really hard. This was one of our three goals this season. Our third goal was try to win districts and get farther than that. It was fun to get that goal tonight.”
John Weyer, head coach, said the road to the district playoffs began as soon as the team lost to Waterford Kettering in 2019.
“We got in the locker room and I told them next year starts right now,” he said. “Almost every single girl in that locker room is here on the bench right now and that’s huge. Everything we do in the summer, everything the girls do in travel ball during the summer that’s huge. It’s a lot of work and it pays off here.”
Skorupski added they worked on preparing more for their opponents.
“We did it last year but we really focused in on how we can beat them and what defense to run and offenses we run against them,” she said.
Preparation led the Wolves to winning the district championship with a 58-49 win over Rochester Adams.
“The girls executed perfectly,” said Weyer. “I can’t say enough about how good of a job they do. I was very proud. They deserved this.”
Adams opened with the first basket and it would be final time the Highlanders would lead. Junior Kaelyn Kaul hit a 3-pointer from the top of the arc seconds later and after a quick turnover with possession back to Clarkston, junior Olivia Toderan shot for a basket, putting the score 5-2.
The Wolves closed the first quarter with a 19-13 lead with two more field goals from Kaul, two baskets from Toderan, and two points from Skorupski on the line.
They kept the momentum going in the second quarter going on a 8-1 run before Adams scored on a basket with three minutes to go.
“We saw the gaps,” said Weyer.
“They were switching on every pick and we knew we had the gap inside. It’s what we had to exploit and that’s what we were shooting for and that’s what we got. We have to take whatever the defense gives us. We expected them to come out on us. They know we can shoot.”
Kaul led with 17 points, hitting five field goals. Heaton scored 14 points and had two 3-pointers and Skorupski had 11 points and one field goal. Toderan and sophomore Izzy Hadley scored eight points each. The girls shot 13 field goals in their 52-46 win over Lake Orion in the semifinals last Wednesday.
“It’s a lot of threes,” Weyer smiled. “They were staying in the zone and we usually shoot people out of zone. If they are going to stay in it – that’s what we are going to do, that’s when you shoot. It’s what happened to us last year. We were up against the zone and we shot and the shots didn’t fall. You have to be careful of it. We had a good inside game, too.”
The Wolves opened the night with three field goals, one each from Skorupski, Heaton and Kaul. Sophomore Izzy Hadley added a fourth field goal with a minute left in the first quarter before Skorupski scored a basket with seven seconds left to put the score, 16-6.
Skorupski led with 13 points and had two 3-pointers
“She is a special kid. I keep telling her if you smile, we win. As long as she’s happy and in the flow of the game, everything is smoother,” Weyer said. “What she does defensively a lot of people don’t see won’t ever show up on the stat sheet. Some of the passes she can make that no one else can make are just amazing and fun to watch.”
Kaul had 11 points with three field goals.
The girls opened districts with a 58-32 win over Romeo, March 2. Morgan Hunter had 17 points and ten rebounds. Toderan had 14 points and Heaton scored 12 points.
The Wolves played Walled Lake Western on Tuesday in the Regional 2 semifinals and lost, 54-47. Walled Lake Western will play Hartland in the regional final on Thursday at Walled Lake Western, 7 p.m.
The winner moves on to Quarterfinal 1 at Flushing High School on March 17, 7 p.m.