EAST LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — Grace Lyons just needed the right look.
She went over 31 minutes without a bucket. But when the ball swung her way around the arc with 37 seconds left in the game, she stepped into a triple and released it with Rockford’s fate on the line. Swish.
Rockford (28-1) led 38-36 on the junior’s first points of the day, which propelled them to a 40-36 victory over defending champ West Bloomfield for the Division 1 State Championship.
Lyons is the all-time leader in 3-pointers made in Rams girls basketball history. But none mattered more than that one.
“As soon as the ball went up, I knew it had a very good shot of going in,” Lyons said. “I was praying that it was going in. Right when it happened, everyone started cheering, but I knew I had to get back (defensively), you know, and get a stop because we wanted it really bad.”
Many would consider Rockford’s win to be an upset, as West Bloomfield was attempting to become a repeat champion. They also knocked the Rams out last year in the state semifinal.
It was a sea of orange filling up nearly half of the Breslin Center, who believed in Rockford from the tip-off. The crowd was rewarded by a shot and game that will be talked about for a long time.
“Probably forever,” Rockford coach Brad Wilson said. “You know, it’s a sports town. High education, high standards. But our community loves our teams. Anywhere you go, you can’t get away from it. So, I’d expect the rest of my lifetime. I’m a Rockford Ram forever. I’m raising my family here and I’m a teacher at the school.”
“I’m assuming we’re going to have conversations about this for the rest of my life. There’s nothing more I’d rather talk about. So, pretty awesome,” added Wilson.
Every time West Bloomfield would put together and start to form a run, Rockford had an answer.
The Rams couldn’t get anything to fall in the first quarter and eventually fell behind 10-4. But a triple right before the half from Anna Wypych gave the Rams a 14-12 lead at the half.
With the shots not falling, the Rams continued to get to the hoop and get to the free throw line, which wasn’t easy with plenty of no calls. When Rockford got its chances, it did well from the free throw line led by Anna Wypch as well. She went 9 of 10 to keep her team in the game.
West Bloomfield’s Kendall Hendrix scored with just over two minutes remaining to extend their lead to 36-33.
After two free throws from Sienna Wolf and a defensive stop, Lyons had her moment of a lifetime and put the 2023 Rams in the history books.
Anna Wypych had 20 points to lead the team while her sister, Alyssa Wypych, was next on the list with nine tallies. Wolf had six points and Lyons had five points, respectively.
For Alyssa Wypych, it took the final horn sounding to come to a realization that she and her teammates were state champions.
“I started to get light headed and just couldn’t believe what was happening,” Alyssa Wypych said. “You work so hard all season for this, when it becomes a reality it’s a very surreal feeling.”
The 28 wins for Rockford ties a state record for the most in MHSAA history. When you win that many games, you learn how to win in multiple ways.
Today, Rockford only needed 40 points to win, scoring 65 the day before in the semifinal against Detroit Renaissance.
That’s what Wilson loved so much about this group and why he had no doubts in his mind that his team could win today.
“If we had to shoot more threes and keep up that way, we could’ve. If the game would’ve involved more transition buckets, I think we could’ve,” Wilson said. “That’s what made this group so tough to beat, and I truly believe they can win in all of those ways. It was tough to score inside and we had to earn it, but we made the shots when it counted.”
It goes to show it’s not always the same script. The Rams won in all kinds of ways this season.
Saturday though, it was about patience and perseverance against a very talented West Bloomfield team. None more patient than Lyons, who picked a great time to have her first basket of the game.
— Correction: A previous version of this article said West Bloomfield was attempting to become the first repeat champion in MHSAA girls basketball history. This is incorrect, there has been repeat champions in the past. We regret the error, which has been fixed.