The Martin girls’ varsity basketball team Wednesday accomplished something last year’s squad was denied by Covid-19 a year ago — a regional championship.
The Lady Clippers used a strong second half to pull away from Colon and capture a 42-31 decision in the regional finals of the Division 4 tournament at Mendon.
Martin now has won six in a row at just the right time of the season. The Lady Clippers won twice to take the district crown last week and downed Walkerville 58-43 in the opening round of the tourney Monday.
It’s been a strange season for a Martin squad that absorbed graduation losses of all-stater Faith Guritz, Kya Warner, Freddie Elkins and Jackie Hildebrand. The only returning starter was Brianna Warner and two super subs in Grace Shettler and Natalie Yowler.
The 2020 squad had its season cut short just before the regional finals and it had to settle for 22-1 record and a district and conference championship.
“What a phenomenal, gutsy performance our girls gave tonight!” coach Ben Schipper said. “The success we have had this season has been so rewarding. I’m so proud of our girls for their consistent effort and execution. We continue to rise to the occasion.”
Senior guard Bri Warner led all scorers with 19, going 6 for 7 from the free throw line. The team was 11/15 from the line, which was huge because the Lady Clippers have struggled there all season.
“Bri was the steady force for us tonight,” the coach said. “When we needed a bucket, she got it for us. She is the glue of our defense and held #23 (the Magis’ top player) scoreless tonight.”
Cirsten Coburn hit three huge threes in the second half to help give Martin a bit of cushion in what was a back and forth game through three quarters.
“Each minute she was on the court, her confidence climbed and she was key for us tonight.,”
Natalie Yowler had big time rebound after big time rebound. Leading scorer Gracie Shettler had a hard time getting her outside shooting going tonight, but she didn’t let that phase her.
“We felt like her two drives to the basket right before half really broke the ice for our girls to understand we could attack the zone with the dribble,” the coach said. “That was a big turning point for us mentally and confidence wise.”
The Lady Clippers limited Colon to just three threes all night
“The support I feel as the coach of this program is incredible.,” Shipper said. “Our girls do their absolute best to execute everything we ask of them. I’m so fortunate to have Robert VandenBerg, my father-in-law, by my side every day sharing his basketball and teaching knowledge with us.
“My wife, Carly, my parents, and my family are all knowledgeable basketball fans and I talk strategy with all of them. It’s truly a family experience. Being able to do this for the community and school I love so much makes this all so enjoyable.
“I’m told this is Martin’s first regional championship since the 1995 season. It’s good to be a Clipper!”
Martin, now 12-5, will play 13-4 Fowler in the the state quarterfinals Monday night at Kalamazoo Loy Norrix High School.