Utica High’s Cayley Ebeling drives the lane in a Division 1 district semifinal game March 6 against Rochester High. The Chieftains beat Rochester before beating Troy High 55-48 in overtime to claim a district title.

Utica High’s Cayley Ebeling drives the lane in a Division 1 district semifinal game March 6 against Rochester High. The Chieftains beat Rochester before beating Troy High 55-48 in overtime to claim a district title.

Photo by Erin Sanchez


Utica High girls hoops bounces back with district title

By: Jacob Herbert | Shelby - Utica News | Published March 12, 2019

UTICA — After an early exit from the Macomb Area Conference tournament almost one month ago, Utica High girls basketball coach Tom McDonald said his team was a resilient group that would bounce back and not hang its heads on that loss to Warren Cousino.

In the games preceding the Cousino loss, the Chieftains beat MAC White champion Romeo High and MAC Blue champion New Baltimore Anchor Bay. McDonald said beating teams of a championship caliber kept his team’s confidence sky high heading into district play.

“I think after that Cousino loss, not only did we not hang our heads, but by beating a couple championship teams it kind of validated that we are a pretty good basketball team, and if we do the right things and play the right way, we can play with just about anybody,” he said.

The Chieftains followed through on that claim March 8 with a 55-48 overtime win over Troy High to claim a Division 1 district title at home.

Prior to that matchup, the Chieftains beat Rochester High March 4 in the semifinal.

“I thought our kids did a good job ignoring the noise and all the things that go along with hosting a district tournament,” McDonald said on what impressed him the most about his team’s recent play. “They really stayed focused on the task at hand. We push this time of year. You can’t look at the scoreboard and you can’t talk about outcomes. You just take it possession by possession, and I think our kids did a good job with that.”

In the same district tournament, Utica Eisenhower fell to Troy High 61-52 in overtime.

Ike coach Michael Satawa saw his team go on a 18-6 run in the second quarter to take a 37-21 lead into the locker room at the half.

The game took a drastic turn, however, with less than two minutes to play in the opening half when Lauren Debeau suffered an injury and was unable to return to the game. The senior guard dropped 16 points in her short time on the floor, and the team was unable to recover from her absence.

“You saw the body language immediately when she went down, the heads went down,” Satawa said. “Lauren is a firecracker; she brings a lot of energy on the floor. It’s more than just a basketball thing with her. Her teammates have a lot of confidence when she is on the floor.”

Gabby Schorling attempted to pick up the torch by hitting five 3-pointers and finishing with 15 points, but it wasn’t enough as the Colts outscored the Eagles 40-15 in the second half and overtime.

Satawa said his message to the team after the game was one that revolved around being a part of something bigger than the game of basketball.

“High school sports were created for a reason — they were created to teach you about lifelong lessons,” he said. “These girls are going to become a part of a team again. Being a teammate is a hard thing to do, and when you have adverse situations that are thrown in front of you, you can do two things. You can run from away from there or you can meet them head on. We didn’t run away from it; we met it head on.”

The Eagles moved up to the MAC Red this year, and although they finished with a 3-7 conference record, Satawa said his team stood tall in one of the state’s toughest divisions.

“This was a resilient group,” he said. “We moved up this year into the MAC Red and we had some great challenges. This was a fun group to coach; they practiced well. The seniors were all a part of turning this program around. We had good times.”