Lafayette girls plagued by lack of hustle in second round playoff loss to Canton

Published 12:01 pm Saturday, February 19, 2022

“Welcome to sports. I don’t understand it, can’t tell you why.”

Lafayette head coach Shane Linzy had no answers when asked about his team’s lack of hustle in their second round playoff loss to Canton on Friday.

“I think we may have just gotten a little comfortable,” said Linzy. “There was a lack of hustle on the defensive end, and our press, I mean we had to back our press out. We shouldn’t have to do that.”

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Linzy said his team looked a step slow in the second half after going up by as much as 12 in the second quarter. The Lady ‘Dores managed just 19 points in the final two quarters, nine of which came in the final two minutes.

“We just took some ill-advised shots, had some costly turnovers that weren’t really forced. It’s the things that have plagued us all year, and unfortunately this game was no different,” Linzy said.

Lafayette smothered teams throughout the regular season with their relentless full-court press, but Canton came in with an effective gameplan to avoid the trap and push the ball up-court quickly. The Tigers whipped passes back and forth across the court, and were able to slice up the Commodore defense with long passes over the top of the press. That led to plenty of easy looks throughout the game for a team that struggled to put the ball in the basket otherwise.

“The press tonight, we didn’t rotate. We weren’t as fast as we normally were moving to places. Their press break really was no different than anybody else’s we’ve seen this year. We just weren’t running,” Linzy said. “Canton did a heck of a job of sprinting to their spots and being ready for the ball, whereas we just didn’t rotate to the spots fast enough. We were on our way, but it’s playoff time. You better be there instead of being on your way.”

Linzy said his team did not look ready to play, citing their heavy legs and lack of effort on the defensive end.

“Defensively, we were just a step slow tonight… and it cost us,” he said.

Lafayette controlled the action for much of the first half, but a 9-0 Canton run midway through the third quarter got the Tigers back in the game. The Commodores were unable to come up with a response, swinging the ball around the perimeter and failing to create any dribble penetration.

Lafayette fell behind 50-39 with three minutes to play when Mariah Reed-Jones put the team on her back, going on a 9-0 run of her own to trim the deficit to two with 24 seconds remaining.

“She started penetrating more,” said Linzy. “That was really our gameplan, and it’s our gameplan every night. Tonight we’re swinging the ball around the perimeter, we’re not really moving, we’re not getting the ball to our shooters.”

The Lady ‘Dores were unable to complete the last-minute comeback however, as Madison Smith’s go-ahead three-point attempt rimmed out as the clock expired.

Their stars did not look comfortable on the offensive end all night, launching low-percentage jumpers from the perimeter and failing to get the ball in the lane. Point guard Karizma Norphlet shot 3-17 from the field, as she was unable to find her shooting stroke in the loss. Star guard Mariah Reed-Jones also struggled to find an offensive rhythm, missing 13 of her first 19 shots before her fourth-quarter explosion.

The Lady ‘Dores looked rusty in the loss after going a full week between their regional championship win over Cleveland Central and their first playoff game.

“I think [the week off] does play into it a little bit. You can look at it as ‘oh you get a week off to relax, rest up some bumps and bruises,’ but this time of year you want to stay in a rhythm,” Linzy said.

Linzy was quick to point out that the week off was no excuse for the way his team played, saying they simply did not show up when it mattered most.

“You can use that as an excuse, but that’s not an excuse. We just didn’t come to play our style of basketball tonight and Canton did.”

Reed-Jones finished with 27 points on 10-25 shooting to go along with six rebounds and seven steals. Smith was the only other Commodore in double-figures, scoring 11 points while knocking down three of her six attempts from beyond the arc.

Lafayette finishes their season as MHSAA Class 5A Region 2 champions, but the 50-48 loss leaves a bad taste in the mouths of a team who had their sights set on a state title.