Similarities exist between Flushing girls basketball team and Raiders’ 2017 state champs

LAPEER, MI – Larry Ford isn’t going to predict his team will win a championship at any level, whether it be league, district, regional or state.

He’s been around far too long to do something foolish like that.

Heck, you’d be hard-pressed to get a rookie coach to do something like that let alone somebody like Ford, who is in his 17th season as Flushing’s head girls basketball coach.

But Ford was willing to admit Monday there are some similarities between this year’s Raiders and the Flushing that team surprised many people by winning the 2017 Class A state championship

“I’ve been asked tis question about four or five teams this year and yeah, there are some definitely similarities,” Ford said after Monday’s 51-40 Division 1 regional win over Grand Blanc at Lapeer. “One, the will to win. These kids are as competitive as the 2017 team was. That’s such a big thing. We all know basketball is a game that’s up and down and these kids are so resilient.

“When things start going the opposite way, they dig deeper and they get more and more competitive. We’re not a real big team. We’ve got some height with Sarah (Rambus, a 6-foot-3 sophomore), but then the rest of them are 5-8 and below but they’re tough as nails. Those two things are carrying us so far.

“And the other thig is this might be one of the smartest basketball IQ teams I’ve had. When we put together a game plan for different teams, these guys understand it and they execute it on both ends of the floor. I think that’s a big contributor to where we are today.”

Where they are is in the regional championship game at 7 p.m. Wednesday against host Midland Dow (20-0).

Dow beat Flushing 76-55 in the third game of the season, making a whopping 16 3-pointers.

Senior Alex Long, who scored her 1,000th career point, thinks the Raiders are a different team than they were when they lost to Dow and she also sees similarities between her team and the 2017 champs.

For one, the 2017 state champions entered the state tournament flying under the radar because they weren’t ranked among the top 10 teams in the state – just like the current Raiders. The 2016-17 team finished with a 24-3 record and this year’s Raiders are 15-2 and riding a 14-game winning streak.

“The biggest similarity I can see between the two teams is I think we’ve been able to come together,” said Long, who was an eighth-grade water girl for the 2017 state champs. “When we have bad spurts in the game, we’ve been able to pick each other.

“I think we are under the radar. Size is a big thing that people take for granted. They think just because they’re bigger than us they’ll be ale to beat us inside or whatever. But I like flying under the radar. I know we’ve got tough team.

“We’re good mentally.”

Rambus led Flushing with 15 points that included 10 in the second half. Long had 12 and the Raiders got 11 from Brooklyn Grissom and eight from Lauren Brokaw.

Long, a four-year varsity player, needed six points to the top the 1,000 career mark it was a bit of a relief that she finally got it after the Raiders had two COVID forfeit victories in the last three weeks.

“The 1,000 points means more than I could ever express, especially being in this year because you never know when your season is going to come to an end or what games are going to be canceled,” she said.

“So, it was really nice to have all the support there and to have all the support from my teammates and coaches helping me become the player that I am.”

Long also had eight rebounds and four steals, Rambus had eight rebounds and three blocks, and Keeli Lindstrom had five assists.

Freshman Chelsea Bishop led Grand Blanc with 15 points, Mya Williams added 10 points and Micah Johnson had nine. The Bobcats were without one of their top players, Taylor Thompson, who has been quarantined because of COVID tracing.

The Bobcats bowed out of the tournament with a 12-4 record.

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