Even though she scored a game-high 28 points, Claire Denecker admitted she couldn’t take all of the credit for herself.
Minutes after the Blissfield defeated Britton-Deerfield 51-34 Friday night in a Class C district girls basketball final, Denecker pointed out her team’s top attributes: Defense, defense and defense.
“It’s the same thing we’ve been doing all year,” said Denecker, a senior. “Contain the ball handlers, contain the shooters, and Britton-Deerfield has two great shooters in Morgan Tanis and Cambria Handy. Putting Emma Essen and Kelsey Wyman on them, we really came out strong in the first half.”
Tanis finished with 16 points for B-D. Denecker’s presence both at the perimeter and in the paint, combined with her team’s ability to control the tempo, helped the Royals (19-0) to the win.
Blissfield will face either today’s Manchester-Clinton winner at 7 p.m. Tuesday in a regional game at Manchester.
“This team is hungry,” Blissfield coach Ryan Gilbert said. “They’re hungry, they want to win and they don’t care who gets the points or who scores on every play.”
Gilbert also singled out another key in the Royals’ success this season: the poise of Wyman, a freshman point guard who added 10 points against Britton-Deerfield (16-5).
“She does a great job of controlling the ball, handling it,” Gilbert said. “We wanted the ball in her hands when we were up big and make them come at her and let her make the decisions. The further we can get everybody away from Claire, then the more we can get it to her.
“She doesn’t look like a freshman out there.”
Denecker’s 3-pointer broke an 8-8 tie with about three minutes left in the first quarter, the beginning of an 11-2 run for Blissfield that gave them a 19-10 lead.
While there were plenty of turnovers and missed shots early in the second quarter, defensively, Blissfield maintained its tempo and kept Britton-Deerfield’s shooters off balance. The Patriots didn’t make their first successful shot of the quarter until 2:13 remained — a basket by Tanis — and finished 3 for 14 from the floor in that period to trail 28-18.
“Our defense is phenomenal, and we really showed that tonight,” Denecker said. “We shut some key players down and I have to owe it all to our defense, especially our guards who put pressure on the ball.”
Blissfield led by as many as 27 points in the third and continued to contain B-D, allowing the Patriots just three successful shots en route to taking a 46-24 lead into the fourth.
“Our defensive pressure, it’s very hard to play against,” said Denecker, who scored 17 of her 28 points in the first quarter. “I really have to owe that all to our defense. When we rush the shots and rush the passes, we turn it over a lot and controlling the tempo was a huge part of that. So was limiting our turnovers.”