Media Information Director
DPS Office of Athletics
The stage is bigger and the stakes are higher than any basketball game they’ve played in their lives.
But when King High’s Lady Crusaders take the court Friday at 2:50 p.m. against Bloomfield Hills Marian in the Class A girls’ basketball state semifinals at Michigan State University’s Breslin Center, legendary coach William Winfield wants his players to look past the hype and focus their collective effort on the task at hand.
“They’re going up there to win a game,’’ Winfield said. “That’s the only thing they should have on their minds right now, because they have what it takes. It’s just a matter of them going out there and execute and do what they’re supposed to do.”
The Lady Crusaders (24-1) have known mostly success — particularly senior starters Janae Williams, Malayasia McHenry and Leah Mathis — in winning four consecutive Detroit Public School League championships.
Their mission now is to advance past Marian (24-1), the team that dealt their only loss this season, a 50-49 heartbreaker Feb. 26 in the Operation Friendship game between the PSL and Catholic League champions.
“They have a good team and we’re decent, so it’s going to be a good game,” Winfield said. “We played them in their building and they beat us by one. We should have won that game. It’s an advantage having played them. They’re chasing us. We’re not chasing them. I think we’re going to play well up there.”
For all of their accomplishments, the Lady Crusaders must be able to maintain their composure in the magnified atmosphere of a spacious Big Ten Conference arena with bright lights, television cameras and thousands of screaming fans.
A lesser team might be intimidated. But Winfield, who’s making his 12th appearance in the state semifinals in his 33rd season as King’s head coach, is banking on the Lady Crusaders to win Friday and to play Saturday for the school’s sixth Class A girls’ basketball state championship in his tenure.
King’s girls last won the Class A championship in 2006 and also won in 1985, 1990, 1991 and 2003, while finishing state runners-up in 1986, 1993, 1994, 2000, 2004 and 2005.
“It’s not going to be new to me, but for these players it will be,” Winfield said. “At least I have an idea of what’s ahead because I’ve been there 11 times. But I really feel we’ll be ready to play.”
With a victory Friday, King would advance to the championship game Saturday at 12 noon against the winner of Friday’s 1 p.m. semifinal between DeWitt (24-1) vs Saginaw Heritage (24-3).
In the MHSAA boys’ tournament, No. 1-ranked and unbeaten Western (23-0) in Class A and Henry Ford (18-5) in Class B are bidding to represent the PSL in East Lansing the following weekend after winning regional championships Wednesday.
At Sterling Heights High School, Coach Derrick McDowell’s Cowboys defeated Warren De La Salle 51-35, and will play Ypsilanti Community (19-4) at 7 p.m. Tuesday March 24 in the Class A quarterfinal game at University of Detroit Mercy’s Calihan Hall, with the winner advancing to the state semifinal game Friday, March 27 at MSU’s Breslin Center.
At Dearborn Heights Robichaud High School, Coach Ken Flowers Ford Trojans defeated Detroit Consortium 70-52 to win the Class B regional title and will play New Haven (25-0) in Tuesday’s March 24 quarterfinal game at 7 p.m. at Marysville High School, with the winner advancing to Friday’s March 27 state semifinal at MSU.
At Yale High School, Coach Lonell Williams’ Osborn Knights (14-9) saw their season end with a 68-66 overtime loss to unbeaten New Haven (25-0) in the Class B regional championship game, averting an all-PSL quarterfinal matchup against Henry Ford.