- Associated Press - Saturday, March 15, 2014

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Bloomfield Hills Marian ended the season Saturday the same way the team started - with a victory over Canton.

Freshman Samantha Thomas scored nine of her 15 points during a key third-quarter run and the Mustangs (25-2) cruised to the school’s fifth Class A state title, 44-26.

“At halftime coach said we weren’t playing like ourselves,” said Thomas, who converted three 3-point plays during an 11-2 run that closed the third period. “I was able to get some rebounds and when we drove the ball it left me open.”

Marian led 22-16 at intermission after holding the Chiefs (22-5) to just five first-half field goals. They took a 35-21 lead into the final period and turned the game into a rout by scoring the first six points of the fourth.

Canton, making the school’s first finals appearance, finished the game with 19 turnovers and eight field goals.

“We couldn’t execute in the third quarter and credit goes to that team and the defense they play,” said coach Brian Samulski, whose team dropped its season opener to the Mustangs. “They don’t have any weaknesses.”

Both teams struggled from the floor in the first half but Marian was far more efficient when it had chances close to the basket. The Mustangs scored 10 points in the lane in the first 16 minutes and ended the game with 24 there.

Canton, meanwhile, managed just eight.

“They pushed us away from the basket,” Samulski added. “They’re strong, tall and athletic and we just couldn’t get over the hump.”

Marian also made the Chiefs pay for their mistakes: They scored 21 points off Canton’s 19 miscues.

“Our half-court and full-court traps were very good for us in the second half,” coach Mary Cicerone said.

The title, the school’s first since 1998 and fifth in Cicerone’s 31-year career on the bench, came a day after the Mustangs avenged their only two losses of the season by beating Catholic High School League rival Farmington Hills Mercy in a semifinal.

Thomas, daughter of former collegiate head coach Derek Thomas, just finished her first varsity season. Cicerone said she was anything but a rookie.

“At this point, she’s not a freshman,” she said. “She’s played a lot of varsity basketball. We know what she’s capable of doing.”

Kara Holinski scored nine points and Bailey Thomas, Samantha’s sister, added eight and four steals for the Mustangs.

Canton, which finished with the most wins in school history, got nine points and six rebounds from Paige Aresco.

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