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Going for Class A Crown

Ja’nae Williams

King’s Ja’nae Williams (4) dribbles up court against Northwestern
at the PSL Holiday Hoops Classic.
CHUCK JOHNSON, DPS PHOTOS

King girls off to 7-0 start

By Harry M. Anderson, Jr.
Special to the Michigan Citizen

DETROIT — Last season looked like a marquee year for the Lady Crusaders of Martin Luther King, Jr. High School. After losing their divisional matchup to Pershing’s Doughgirls, the Lady Crusaders rebounded and defeated their biggest rival by one point in the PSL Championship.

The girls then gathered themselves for the MHSAA State Tournament, defeating Cass Tech to win the district crown before meeting the Doughgirls in the regional final at Warren Cousino. The Lady Crusaders beat them once again to win the Class A Regional Title.

With their performance at that point, it seemed the sky was the limit for MLK High and the path to the Class A Final was a cinch. But the Lady Crusaders suffered a crushing blow in the quarterfinals, losing to Inkster at Detroit Mercy.

Suddenly, their hopes and dreams of a state crown came to an abrupt end. The season that looked hopeful was suddenly over.

This season’s Lady Crusaders are pulling no punches. They’re off to a 7-0 start (2-0 PSL East). Some of King’s victories show their relentless pursuit to get back to the  PSL Finals. Of the seven wins, the Lady Crusaders defeated Ecorse 69-14, Denby 64-22, East English Village 59-7 and Northwestern 74-35. In their recent victory over Southgate Anderson, 62-28, Antania Hayes scored 14 points and pulled down 12 rebounds.

King head coach William Whitfield says the King girls are off to a great start because of the emphasis on defense. He says playing defense is the key to winning tight games with quality opponents and championships.

“We’ve put a lot of emphasis on defense. To make it to the PSL, Operation Friendship and state championships and win you need to play good defense,” Whitfield told the Michigan Citizen.

“We have very little access to practice facilities during the holidays because the schools are closed. Practice time is limited.”

And King was okay during the holiday season, defeating Northwestern and Southgate Anderson during the winter break.

The Lady Crusaders have depth with four seniors, five juniors, two sophomores and one freshman. Leaders on the floor are seniors Hayes (6-1, forward), La’Quita Hart (5-2, guard) and Takira Height (5-10, guard); juniors LaShai Geeter (5-10, forward) and Marte Grays (6-1, center); and sophomore Ja’nae Williams (5-7, guard).

“Hayes is a good player,” Whitfield said. “She played well during the summer AAU league and she’s carried it over into the regular season.”

Hayes has already signed a national letter of intent to play for DePaul University in Chicago next year.

“Marta (Grays) has been playing well getting rebounds and out on the floor on the fast break,” Whitfield explained. “That’s a good thing to have. Her new dimension to her game is to run the floor. Most of the time she can beat the girl she guards down the floor.”

The main aim for the 2012-13 Crusaders: Defend their PSL crown, win Operation Friendship and get to the Class A Finals to win it all.

“We’re going to be prepared to play,” Whitfield said. “Once you start playing well you have to stay on top of it because if you slack off you’ll be devastated by another team. … You must play defense.”

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