Stingy defense leads GPN over GPS in district title

By: Zachary Manning | Grosse Pointe Times | Published March 6, 2020

 Grosse Pointe North knocked off Grosse Pointe South 45-40 to claim the district title.

Grosse Pointe North knocked off Grosse Pointe South 45-40 to claim the district title.

Photo by Heather Gardner

 Grosse Pointe North's Christina Braker drives by a Grosse Pointe South defender in a Division 1 district final March 6. North will play Bloomfield Hills Marian in regionals.

Grosse Pointe North's Christina Braker drives by a Grosse Pointe South defender in a Division 1 district final March 6. North will play Bloomfield Hills Marian in regionals.

Photo by Heather Gardner

GROSSE POINTE WOODS –– Many teams pride themselves on being stingy on the defensive end of the floor, but few squads have been able to put a stranglehold on teams like Grosse Pointe North.

Grosse Pointe South saw firsthand what the Norsemen could do defensively in a Division 1 district final March 6 at North. The Blue Devils entered the game averaging 55.5 points per game, which was the top mark in the Macomb Area Conference Red Division.

On the other side, North boasted the division’s best defensive mark, holding opponents to 37 points per game this season. The two rivals had played three times prior, with North holding the Blue Devils under their average each time.

This game was no different, as the Norsemen set the tone early, jumping out to a 32-13 halftime lead. The Blue Devils clawed their way back in the fourth quarter, but the damage was already done.

North made enough plays down the stretch to pull out a 45-40 victory over South. It was the Norsemen’s third win over the Blue Devils this season.

“Defense is literally our motto,” Norsemen junior Madeline Kohler said. “It’s all about defense. We all say defense wins games. We really grind in practice to be the best we can be. In the past couple weeks, our defense is just getting better and better, and it showed tonight.”

With South finding some momentum in the fourth quarter, Kohler and senior Christina Braker took matters into their own hands. As veterans, Kohler and Braker stopped the bleeding and put the game away.

Kohler finished with 17 points, including some key late buckets. Braker ended the game with 13 points and seven rebounds.

The win pushes the Norsemen into regionals, where it will see Bloomfield Hills Marian. The game is set for 4:30 p.m. March 10 at Southfield A&T.

“We count on those two, and they’re great competitors,” coach Gary Bennett said of Braker and Kohler. “They understand the game, they know what needs to be done. Things got tight, but you got to rely on those kids that you know don’t want to lose.”

With the loss, South finishes its season with an 18-5 overall record. The Blue Devils were also the regular season MAC Red champions.

They were led by Alexa Downey, who scored 19 points and grabbed five rebounds. Kamryn Richards chipped in 11 points and seven rebounds.

“I’m proud of our girls and the season they had,” South coach Kevin Richards said. “It’s not the outcome that we wanted tonight, but that’s a good, disciplined basketball team.”

South will return a good chunk of production, including Richards and Downey. With that, the Blue Devils expect to be competitive again next season.

“We need to go back to the drawing board and look at what we do. We got better this year,” Richards said. “I think we made some strides, got better, and hopefully we can continue to do that next year.”