Warren Cousino’s ‘phenomenal’ season comes to a close

By: Mark Vest | Warren Weekly | Published March 15, 2012

The banner season of the Warren Cousino girls basketball team has come to an end, as the Patriots fell in the opening round of regionals to Detroit Martin Luther King 49-43, a game played on their home court March 6.

Despite exiting the postseason earlier than they would have liked, the 2011-2012 season saw the Patriots make their presence felt in the Macomb Area Conference.

Prior to being defeated by King, Cousino had won 11 straight games. As part of that win streak, the Patriots captured their first league championship in 34 years when they won the MAC White Division, and they proceeded to follow that up with their second district championship in the last three years when they defeated Sterling Heights in the final of a Class A district tournament March 2.

After losing eight seniors from last year’s squad and getting off to a mediocre 2-2 start this season, it may have been hard to find anybody who would have believed the Patriots were on their way to both a league and a district title.

“Everybody wrote us off,” said Cousino coach Mike Lee. “We’ve got a phenomenal floor general in Elena Popkey, who will go down as one of Cousino’s finest young ladies. We had two freshmen, three sophomores, five juniors and three seniors that just worked their tail off every single day in practice.

“As far as I’m concerned, I think they put together one of the best years the MAC has seen. Couldn’t be more proud. Credit goes to those young ladies.”

Lee said Popkey, a four-year point guard for Cousino, has received All-County and All-State honors during her time in a Patriots uniform. She will head off to play for Oakland University on scholarship next season. The regional game against King was the final for Popkey, Jessica Behnke and Hailey Caverly.

“It’s a bitter sweet thing,” Lee said. “It’s exciting for March basketball, but even if you go to the final game, you always have to say goodbye to some seniors — that’s the tough job. You’re eventually going to have to do it. You’re never prepared for it, but it’s better to have than have never had.”

Although Cousino will be losing a lot with the loss of its three seniors, the good news is that if all of the current juniors return next season, the Patriots will take to the court with five seniors. And while league and district titles don’t exactly grow on trees, Lee does have high hopes that Cousino will have the pieces in place to make another successful run next season.

“We’re going to get back to it,” he said. “We’re going to enjoy this season, and know that we left it here on our home court — extremely special. We can’t replace our three seniors, but we’ll try to do the best job. We have people to step up; we have everybody but three coming back. We’ll be ready.”

The Patriots finished the season with a record of 19-4 overall, 11-1 in the MAC White.

Parkway falls in semi

Sterling Heights Parkway Christian also won its district and advanced to the regional round in the Class D state tournament. But the Eagles fell 45-24 to Lutheran Westland March 6 at Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes to wrap up their season.