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Cousino wins second straight district title, falls in regional semi

March 13, 2013

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The Warren Cousino girls basketball team beat Warren Regina 64-51 March 1 to clinch its second straight Class A district title. Pictured is Patriots senior Bethany McCord during a March 5 loss to Grosse Pointe South in a regional semifinal.

ST. CLAIR SHORES — The Warren Cousino girls basketball team struggled for much of its Michigan High School Athletic Association Class A district final against Warren Regina before using a strong fourth quarter to upend the Saddlelites 64-51 in a game played March 1 at Warren Woods Tower.

The Patriots held one lead — 16-15 early in the second quarter — for the first 75 percent of the game. Cousino came on strong in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Saddlelites 19-5 to secure a second straight Class A district title.

The district crown in the third for Patriots coach Mike Lee, who’s been with Cousino for four years.

“I told the girls at halftime that we’ve worked too hard for it to end here,” Lee said. “Nobody in that locker room wanted the season to end. They played so much better in that second half, and I couldn’t be prouder of those young ladies.”

In winning the district crown, the Patriots (17-7) got a strong performance from junior guard Natasha Baetiong, who led Cousino with 20 points. Senior forward Bethany McCord, who played strong post defense throughout the contest, notched a triple double with 10 points, 13 rebounds and 10 steals.

The Patriots would see their season end in a 56-34 loss to Grosse Pointe South in a Class A regional semifinal played March 5 at St. Clair Shores Lake Shore.

Cousino hung tough with the Blue Devils for the first 16 minutes, going into halftime down just two. A big, 18-3 third quarter proved to be the difference for South, which is looking to get back to the state title game for the second straight year.

“There’s a reason (South) is the best team in the state,” Lee said after the March 5 season-ending loss. “I’ll have six months to think about what happened in that third quarter. We just didn’t come out and execute what we talked about at halftime.”

In mounting their comeback against Regina, the Patriots forced 17 turnovers in the second half — 27 for the game. Cousino turned the ball over just five times in the second half and made a concerted effort to get shots close to the basket. The Patriots took just three 3-point shots in the second half after hoisting up 14 in the first half.

“We played zone in the second half to muck things up because we know Regina likes to run up and down the court,” Lee said. “(McCord) was great on defense for us. She did a great job of playing passing lanes all game long.”

The Patriots’ district title win follows up a second straight Macomb Area Conference White Division title. Cousino went 30 years between district crowns before its current run.

“This is great to be a part of,” Baetiong said. “We made some adjustments, and getting the turnovers helped us get our energy level up a bit.

“This is what we worked for all year.”

Lee is mindful of the success of the Patriots’ program since his arrival. He said Cousino’s latest accomplishment puts a lot on the shoulders of players who will join the program in the future.

Lee knows the team has solid players coming back next year, such as Baetiong, and sophomores Abby Vojtush and Haley Hoffman. The Cousino coach did say, though, the team would be searching for a leader due to the loss of McCord and senior starter Nicole Propst.

“Girls who come into this program will have a lot to live up to,” Lee said. “These girls were up every day at 6:30 in the morning for practice, working really hard. I like the way we’re doing things here, and the players coming up will, hopefully, look to keep things going.”

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