Soraya Timms had already put her mark on East Lansing’s CAAC Blue Tournament title game victory over Grand Ledge on Friday night when she leapt to the hoop in the dying moments of the second quarter.
The Trojans were inbounding the ball from sideline, right in front of the Comet’s bench. The first pass attempt came with 0.9 seconds on the clock, but was tipped back out by a defender. There were three tenths of a second left for the Trojans to toss up a prayer and hope it could get tipped in. And Annelise Lebeda’s high-arcing inbounds pass came down, Timms floated down the lane, out-leaping her defender to meet the ball and, in a fraction of a second, redirecting it for a bucket.
As the buzzer sounded and the shot fell, the referee emphatically signalled the shot was good as the East Lansing fans erupted. The Trojans on the court mobbed Timms at midcourt, where the rest of the players on the bench, and Head Coach Rob Smith ran out to meet them.
“Did you see her vertical leap?” one fan excitedly asked another after the cheering slightly subsided.
After the game, Timms said the play wasn’t even originally designed for her, but was actually drawn up for Ella Miller.
“But it broke down and I saw that my girl was really overplaying me,” Timms said, “and me and Annelise just made eye contact and I broke back door and it just worked out.”
Timms’s tip-in was the finishing touch on a 10-0 run to close the first half, putting the Trojans up 43-24 at the break and effectively putting the game out of reach for the Comets. And buzzer-beating tip-ins aside, Timms’s overall play at point guard on Friday paced East Lansing in a 79-43 victory, securing the CAAC Blue title for the Trojans.
On offense, she scored in double figures, dished up a bevy of assists and looked poised running the show. And on defense she hounded her assignment without fouling, generating steals and stymieing any rhythm. Coming off the bench, Timms play keyed the Trojans to a win on Friday, and a dominant second quarter from her — capped by the buzzer beater — helped solidify the outcome before the second half began.
“Soraya,” Smith said postgame, “is our best overall basketball player on the team, hands down.”
While lauding Timms after the game, Smith noted that she hadn’t been completely healthy throughout the season. Dealing with a stress fracture in her foot, Timms has been limited throughout this season, Smith said. Only as of late has she started to come back into form. And on Friday evening against Grand Ledge, Timms showed how her presence transforms the way the Trojans can play.
With Timms commanding and distributing the ball, the Trojans looked all the more effective in transition. During her dominant second quarter, Timms nabbed several steals from her defensive assignments, using strong footwork and deft hands to be physical without fouling. And with the quick change, Timms could start the run out.
Sometimes she took the ball all the way to the hoop, scoring for herself. She finished with 10 points, but didn’t lead East Lansing in scoring — Payton Baker did with 15 points off the bench. Timms was at her most dangerous, though, when she looked to pass.
In the first minute of the second quarter, Timms pushed the ball quickly up the court after a missed Grand Ledge free throw. She came down the right side of the paint and as she approached the elbow, Timms whipped a right-handed pass to a cutting Ella Miller, who ducked under the rim and laid it up for two points.
“I don’t try to force anything,” Timms said, “just see what comes to me.”
Prior to Friday, EL leaned heavily on the three seniors — Annelise Lebeda, Bre’Naya Lane and Allie Mayes — and junior Gracie Emerson to fill the minutes at point guard while Timms came back. And the Trojans were entirely functional playing that way, with Timms playing sporadic minutes off the bench. They were undefeated and No. 2 in the state entering Friday.
But Smith himself said after Friday’s game that with Timms back at the point, the Trojans can ascend to a new height.
“She’s our point guard. And to Bre and Annalise’s credit, and Gracie and some of the kids that kind of filled in there, we’re just really super pleased that they’ve been able to do that,” Smith said. “But she [Timms] is back. She’s back. And now we’re trying to figure out who we are.”
After dispatching Waverly, 92-22, on March 11, Smith said his team was playing “championship basketball.” That was without Timms operating like she did Friday.
The Trojans have now secured one championship, thanks in large part to Timms. To win any more, it’ll likely require similar performances from Timms.