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March 13, 2014

Lathrup’s brilliant winter ends in loss to Marian, with more success to come

By Mike Moore
C & G Sports Writer

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Lathrup’s Deja Church (20), pictured against Harrison at the end of the season, is one of 10 players who could return next season. Just a freshman, Church scored 24 points, had eight steals and handed out five assists in a district final victory.

Of the 14 girls in uniform last week for a Class A regional semifinal against one of the best teams in the state, 10 could return next season.

Of the five who had their name called in the starting lineup before a 65-30 loss to Birmingham Marian, four should be in the same spot a year from now.

So as great as the 2013-14 season was for the Southfield-Lathrup girls basketball team, it may just be the tip of the iceberg.

“There are some very good basketball players on this team right now,” coach Michele Marshall said. “In my opinion, with some more experience and seasoning, they have the potential to be great.”

Marshall spoke one day after the loss to Marian ended her team’s season with a 17-7 final record.

“Marian is always going to be a good team, and we knew that going in,” Marshall said of the loss. “If you don’t come out and match their intensity, they will make it a long night for you. We got in some early foul trouble, and that made things tough. … They were more intense than us. They played very physical and very strong, and with a young group like we have, when a team jumps out on you like that, it can be tough to bounce back.”

Still, Marshall was quick to point out how one loss could do little to take away from a season of so many positives, especially from a team with so much youth.

Four seniors are set to graduate from the squad, but the Chargers could return their top five scorers.

Sophomore Taiye Bello led the team with a 9.4 points-per-game average.

Freshman standout Deja Church wasn’t far behind with a 9.1 average.

Church only got better as the year went on.

In a 62-28 victory against Oak Park in the district final, Church scored 24 points, had eight steals and handed out five assists.

Lathrup’s 11-3 record in the Oakland Activities Association Red Division was good for second place, one game behind Harrison.

The district championship was the ninth straight and 12th in the past 13 years for the program.

“We talked after the game about some of the things we accomplished this year,” Marshall said. “I was so proud of how we won games and competed in one of the better leagues in the state. We had freshmen and sophomores stepping in and stepping up all season to help the older girls. It makes you proud as a coach to see the team respond the way they did.”

And with all that talent set to return next winter, there’s little question as to Marshall’s intentions, as well.

“Three years ago, I was getting married, finishing my master’s and buying a new house, and at the time, I almost decided it was time for me to move on,” Marshall explained. “But I love coaching, and I’m at a point where I can give it all of my focus. So I’ll be back with this group next year. As long as Lathrup still wants me here, my passion is coaching.”

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Mike Moore at mmoore@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1038. Twitter Follow Mike on Twitter.