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Published March 6, 2012

Second-year Ferndale girls basketball coach leads team to first district crown in 13 years

» click to enlarge «
Ferndale High sophomore guard Taryn Stephens surveys the defense during a district playoff game. Stephens and the Eagles bested Ferndale University 60-53 to win the school’s first district title since 1999.

LIVONIA — After his squad won the school’s first district title since 1999, second-year Ferndale High girls basketball coach Berwyn Ellis was both proud and stunned at the same time.

“I can only really think about the first time I walked into the gym and there were only four girls in there,” Ellis said after his Eagles downed Ferndale University 60-53 at Livonia Clarenceville March 2.

“We just said, ‘We’ll put some feelers out to see if there’s any interest,’ and there was. It was rough at first … but we all came together and fought really hard and rose to the occasion.”

The Eagles (12-11) were in regional action March 6, after press time.

The Eagles’ youth — most of the key contributors are sophomores and juniors — was evident early in the season, as they were unable to finish out close games due to struggles at the free-throw line.

In the district final, however, the team’s maturity and composure were on display, as it held off a University run in the fourth to secure the win.

With 16 seconds left and her team holding a five-point advantage, Eagles sophomore Micaela Ellis, the vocal and floor leader, stepped to the foul line and drained two free throws to seal the win and the district crown for Ferndale.

“I know I missed two before that point, and I wanted to show our younger players I could make up for that,” Micaela Ellis said. “I talked to some of the other girls who missed (free throws) and tried to help them. I didn’t want them to see that I couldn’t do it myself.”

Ferndale’s coach, who admitted winning a district crown wasn’t even a goal at the start of the season, believes that confidence could carry over to the 2012-13 season. The combination of a deep playoff run and what should amount to all of the Eagles’ key contributors returning next season has Berwyn Ellis and his players optimistic about the future.

“We know now what we can do if we work hard,” sophomore guard Taryn Stephens said. “Now we’ll all want to do it again.”

Regional play began after press time.

On its way to the finals, Ferndale ended the seasons of Detroit Old Redford and Detroit Community in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively.

Ferndale University got past Livonia Clarenceville and Detroit Communication Media Arts High to set up the battle with the Eagles.

Berkley bows out early in playoffs
The Berkley High girls basketball team saw its season end in a district quarterfinal loss Feb. 27 to Southfield Lathrup. The Bears finish the season at 12-9.

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