Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes may have lost by 19 points to undefeated Pittsford in Thursday’s Class D semifinal, but the Lakers did break through for 43 points — the most allowed by the Wildcats this season.
In fact, Pittsford’s defensive stats are pretty gaudy overall. In 13 games this winter, the Wildcats have held opponents to half that total, or less, including five contests where foes didn’t even crack double figures.
“I think it’s the defense as a whole on our team,” junior forward Maddie Clark said. “We really work on it, in gaps. Coach (Chris) Hodos is always griping on us to fill in your gaps.”
“I think it just shows that we are a really hard-working team,” classmate Jaycie Burger added. “We’ve also played teams like Belleville, Manchester, Grass Lake. We beat Manchester by 20, they’re a good Class C team; we beat Belleville, they’re a Class A team that won a district and they were 18-2. We hustle a lot more than other teams we play and that has a lot to do with it.”
Clark said Pittsford doesn’t approach games with a certain defensive point total as a goal. “We just make sure we’re the team on top,” she said.
Re-run: The Pittsford-Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes semifinal was a repeat match-up from a year ago. Pittsford won that game as well, 57-26, but Lakers coach Steve Robak was more pleased with this year’s experience.
“I don’t have any doubt that we’ve made progress,” he said. “If we had a day where we could have converted on the lay-ups where we got good looks, that changes everything.
“It would be a five-point game, we wouldn’t have to foul, they would have had pressure to score in the half-court. Coulda, shoulda, woulda, it didn’t happen, but certainly we made progress.”
Family affair: The Lakers have made six trips to the final four in the past seven seasons and won three championships from 2010-12. There are hints that the run may not end soon, as younger sisters of several key players are poised to join the squad in upcoming seasons.
Sophomore Tiffany Senerius, who led the team with 20 points Thursday, will team up next year with her sister Macy, currently an eighth-grader. Another sophomore, Lucille Kline, also has an eighth-grade sister, Isabel. And Robak himself has a seventh-grade niece, Brooklyn, who is the daughter of Paul Robak, the Laker boys coach.
Will to win: Likewise, Pittsford could be around the state finals for awhile. The Wildcats are 90-8 in Hodos’ four years at the helm — 73-2 with Clark and Berger in the line-up. But the Pittsford junior varsity has not lost a game in four years, either.
“It’s coaching, and it’s our mindset,” Clark said. “We’ve been taught from when we were little, and we do not want to lose. We work our tails off not to lose; our mindset is winning.”
Bigger is better: In the waning seconds of Mt. Pleasant Sacred Heart’s semifinal win over Stephenson, the Irish subbed in a fresh set of five players: Alexis Jackson, Grace Reetz, Julie Hopp, Kimberley Boulier and Katie Goenner. And they even had two more on the bench — a luxury the team didn’t have when winning the Class D state championship two years ago with only seven players on the roster.
“We were really limited to what we could do a couple of years ago. We did it really well, but what we wanted to do this year was take advantage of our athleticism and our length and our depth. We were able to do a lot more pressing, a lot more trapping in the half-court, we were able to be a little more active and use the length that we had to our advantage,” coach Damon Brown said. “That’s the exciting part: you can practice a little more of those things when you have more than seven players, so this year’s been really exciting, and the girls have been really receptive to those kind of things. They ask for it during games.”
A long way from home: Although both Calumet and St. Ignace won state titles last season, the Upper Peninsula has been shut out this time around. Stephenson, the last team remaining beyond the Mackinac Bridge, lost to Mt. Pleasant Sacred Heart, 45-38 Thursday, yet pretty much all of Stephenson made the seven-hour trip to watch.
”We were the only team left in the U.P., I think we represented it well,” senior guard Kelsey Johnson said. “We didn’t really expect to get this far this year, but we kept making milestones and milestones and as soon as we won regionals, we were thinking we could make it all the way to state and that was a huge goal of ours. We did that, so I’m really proud of my teammates.”
Yooper pride is a special thing, Johnson said.
“Well, I mean a lot of the country doesn’t know the Upper Peninsula exists,” she said. “A lot of people under-estimate the Upper Peninsula, so we like to represent ourselves well. Going downstate is a huge privilege and we have a lot of support, and a lot of pride.”