Marian basketball team cruises past Canton High, claims Class A state title

By: Mike Moore | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published March 15, 2014

 Marian freshman Samantha Thomas goes up for a shot during the Class A state final. She led all scorers with 15 points as the Mustangs rolled to a 44-26 victory.

Marian freshman Samantha Thomas goes up for a shot during the Class A state final. She led all scorers with 15 points as the Mustangs rolled to a 44-26 victory.

Photo by Patricia O'Blenes

EAST LANSING — Dominance, one step at a time.

The best Class A had to offer, one round after another.

The Bloomfield Hills Marian basketball team capped the 2014 postseason Saturday afternoon doing what it has done the past three weeks, winning in convincing fashion.

The Mustangs claimed their first state title since 1998, cruising past Canton High 44-26 at the Breslin Center.

“It was a whole team victory,” coach Mary Cicerone said. “It was a great victory.”

“This means the world to us,” junior Jaeda Robinson said. “To do this for coach. To do this for (Laura Bruton, the team’s only senior), it means the world.”

Playing with calm and confidence, Marian started the game on a 9-2 run and held Canton to just four points in the opening quarter for an 11-4 lead.

Canton shook off the early game rust and came to life in the second frame. But every time the Chiefs got close — trailing just 16-13 at one point — Marian found another run.

Thanks in large part to forcing six turnovers, and scoring 10 points off the takeaways, the Mustangs led 22-16 by halftime.

“We struggled a little bit to score in the first half,” Cicerone said. “But I thought our trapping press in the second (half) was the difference.”

Marian’s defensive pressure amplified as the game went on. Canton managed just five points in the third quarter, while the Mustangs’ patient offensive attack poured in 13 for a commanding 35-21 lead.

Freshman Samantha Thomas keyed the third-quarter takeover with three, three-point plays in the final 4:13 of the frame.

“My teammates drove the ball. They just missed (a few shots), and I was there to get the rebound,” Thomas said of her nine points in the third. She led all scorers in the game with 15 points.

After forcing another Canton turnover on the opening possession of the fourth, Kara Holinski drilled a 3-pointer to put Marian up 17.

The celebration was officially on from there on out.

Canton didn’t score its first points in the fourth until 3:36 remained in the game and never solved Marian’s defensive attack, finishing the game with 19 turnovers and shooting just 25 percent from the field.

Much like Saturday, Marian’s journey to East Lansing was simply dominant.

The Mustangs opened the playoffs with a 41-27 victory against Farmington Hills Harrison, and then claimed a district title with a 59-35 win against North Farmington.

In the regional round, they cruised past Lathrup Village Southfield-Lathrup 65-30, then beat Rochester Hills Stoney Creek 45-26 in the final.

A 43-17 victory against Port Huron Northern in the quarter set up Friday’s meeting against Farmington Hills Mercy in the semifinals.

It was the fourth time the Catholic League foes met this winter, and Marian avenged its only two losses of the season with a 67-55 victory.

The state final was the exclamation point on a 25-2 final record.

“They’ve grown as a group. The camaraderie is just amazing,” Cicerone said when asked about a roster loaded with juniors and sophomores. “They just like each other. They hang out, they do all that stuff. When I’m the negative one or I have get after somebody, they’re there to pick her up.”

Holinski finished with nine points in the win, while Bailey Thomas scored eight. Robinson finished with five points.

Paige Aresco led Canton with nine points, while Rachel Winters scored six.

The Chiefs’ 22-5 record was the best in program history, and the trip to the state finals was the first in school history.

“These girls took us on a tremendous ride in the state tournament,” coach Brian Samulski said. His girls started the year 0-2, including a season-opening 49-38 loss to Marian. “You can’t really complain. It’s tough to lose to (Marian) to start the year and end the year, but with all that said, we did a great job.”

The state title for Marian is the first for the program since 1998.

The Mustangs also won Class A titles in 1996, 1992 and 1988.