“I felt like we did a good job of getting to the rim and they were letting them play with the hits across the arm a bit,” Trice said. “If you’re not going to get those calls then you’re going to have a hard time.”
MND was in its staple 2-3 zone to start the game, but Wayne’s 13-8 lead after the first quarter changed the Cougars’ strategy to man-to-man. Wayne managed only a free throw in the second quarter and trailed 20-14 at halftime.
“They were in a zone and we were prepared for that,” Trice said. “And I felt like we were prepared for everything to do with man. If you’re not finishing them and you’re not getting those body calls, that makes a huge difference.”
MND played more zone in the second half, but Wayne (18-4) still struggled and trailed 33-24 after three quarters. Wayne star Bree Hall came alive with 14 of her 16 points in the second half, but she didn’t make her first basket until a 3-pointer with 2:30 left in the third.
“She didn’t shoot the ball well, she didn’t finish it like she normally does,” Trice said. “If your best player has an off night, other people have to be able to step it up a little bit. We just didn’t get that.”
Wayne trailed 35-26 early in the fourth and had a glimmer of hope, but MND’s eight offensive rebounds in the second half and aggressiveness kept the Warriors from making a serious threat.
MND star KK Bransford scored 20 points and made 12 of 17 free throws. Her and her team’s tenacity was never more apparent than when she had successive shots blocked under the basket by Hall and Jacquel Bronaugh. But she didn’t give up, stole an outlet pass after the second block, scored and added a free throw for a 39-26 lead with 4:33 left.
Five Wayne senior starters played their final game: Hall, Hargrove-Hall, Bronaugh, Lovie Malone and Saharra Murphy.
“It’s a special group, and I don’t think we’ve been in any better place mentally than what we were over these last couple weeks,” Trice said. “Mentally they were a lot tougher than they’ve been. That group is going to go down as one of the most special teams in Wayne girls history.”