Cousino girls basketball out for another banner year

By: Jason Carmel Davis | Warren Weekly | Published January 12, 2018

 Warren Cousino junior guard Mackenzie Cook drives to the basket against Bloomfield Hills Marian earlier this season. The Patriots are after a third straight Macomb Area Conference Red Division championship.

Warren Cousino junior guard Mackenzie Cook drives to the basket against Bloomfield Hills Marian earlier this season. The Patriots are after a third straight Macomb Area Conference Red Division championship.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

WARREN — The Warren Cousino girls basketball team lost several players to graduation who saw their share of success.

In the last two seasons, the Patriots advanced to the Class A state semifinal last season and won the state championship in 2016.

The team lost a number of key contributors to graduation who were on those squads, including Erin McArthur, Rachel Hayes, Aubrey Fetzer and All-State player Kierra Fletcher.

“Obviously, I had to change some things offensively and play off of the strengths we have,” said coach Mike Lee, who is in his ninth year leading the program. “Every year as a coach, even with (Fletcher), we were always tweaking things. But some things, like hard work and defense, don’t ever change.”

Lee is looking to get sophomore forwards Racheal Adewussi and Olivia Joliffe involved in the offense; junior wing Kate McArthur, who verbally committed to play at Clemson University, returns as the team’s main outside threat; and junior guard Mackenzie Cook guides the Patriots offense.

Cousino has faced some challenges early. The Patriots opted to play a tough nonleague slate that included games against Birmingham Seaholm, Bloomfield Hills Marian, Midland Dow and Clarkston High. Cousino also plays in the Macomb Area Conference Red Division and at press time sat in third place at 1-2 — two games behind 3-0 Macomb Dakota.

Overall, Cousino was 5-4.

“We knew it’d be a challenging year coming off the success we’ve had,” Lee said. “Losing (Fletcher) and the rest of that group of seniors, and playing the schedule we played, was tough.”

What made things tougher was losing McArthur to injury early in the season opener against Seaholm.

She missed the first six games of the season, and the Patriots went 3-3 in her absence. Lee said he’s proud of how his team responded after losing such an important cog in the Cousino machine.

“I think we took a lot of good things out of (McArthur’s) absence,” Lee said. “Our seniors are now getting their time to shine, and our two sophomores had time to get better and develop. Now that she’s back, I think we’re in a better spot and it shows.”

McArthur obviously hated missing time on the court, but she made the best of it.

Lee said the junior wing became a more vocal player and a leader. The coach called McArthur the team’s emotional leader, along with being the ultimate competitor.

“Having to watch and not be able to help my team really hurt, but with my teammates’ help, I made it through mentally,” McArthur said. “It gave other people opportunities to do things they didn’t think they could on the court. When I came back, I knew what we needed from watching, and I think I’ve been able to fill those holes, help us grow as a team and get the job done.”

Getting the job done includes adding more banners to the Cousino trophy case.

Expectations haven’t changed, Lee said. A third straight MAC Red title and a second consecutive MAC Red/White tournament title are goals Lee has set for his team, along with another deep playoff run.

“Our expectations are very simple: to show everyone we’re a program that has been established by a bunch of great players, and that’s what we’ll continue doing,” Lee said.

“We were very successful in winning conference and district titles before, but (Fletcher) and the rest of that group of seniors got us over the hump. Even though people are counting us out after losing those players, we want to find a way to keep this thing going. I feel we’re off to a great start.”

McArthur said she and her teammates don’t play with the mindset of a program that has gone 52-11 since the start of the 2015-16 season. Even with the early ups and downs, she expects Cousino to have a chance at reaching all of its goals.

“I have very high expectations for this team and myself,” McArthur said. “We’ve hit some rough patches, but what teams don’t? ... I think we’re underrated sometimes, but that doesn’t affect how we play. We play with a chip on our shoulder.”

The Patriots’ next game is against Port Huron Northern at 7 p.m. Jan. 18 on the road.