EAST LANSING — Climax-Scotts was playing the part of the little engine that could when Stephanie Cochran hit a basket to put the Panthers ahead of the No. 1 team in the state with 4:03 left to play.
But that is when Kelley Wright came down the court and nailed a three-point shot to put St. Ignace ahead for good.
“It was about time for one, that’s for sure,” Wright said, laughing. “I was feeling it. I felt our team needed that three so I took it. It was open and luckily it went in.”
Luck had nothing to do with Wright’s triple or with St. Ignace’s 26th straight win, a 42-36 victory in the Class D semifinals.
The Saints (26-0) will go after their fourth state title under Dorene Ingalls at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Breslin Center.
This was not a game for St. Ignace’s highlight film. The Saints trailed 9-7 after one quarter and were tied at halftime.
“It obviously wasn’t the prettiest of games, but I think that had a lot more to do with them executing what their game plan was and us not making it St. Ignace basketball speed,” said Ingalls. “But sometimes, at this stage of the game if you can win ugly that’s a good thing.’
The game didn’t seem ugly to Climax-Scotts coach Dana Perrin, who was pleased with her team’s effort against the Saints.
“I can’t be any prouder of my girls, in all honesty,” she said. “We took on the No. 1 ranked team in the state and No. 1 from the get-go and probably gave them the best game, I believe they’ve played all year.”
Turnovers — 20 total –may have cost the Panthers the game. But they were forced turnovers that came against some excellent pressure.
“On-the-ball pressure is the biggest thing,” said Climax point guard Janae Langs. “They completely deny that ball. They’re overly-aggressive on that. They’re looking to intercept any pass that they can so they’re coming hard, they’re trying to gamble. Just them making chaos is the toughest thing.”
After Wright’s triple gave the saints the lead, Margo Brown hit a running one-hander and the, Wright added a free throw for a five-point lead.
Climax was within three when St. Ignace senior Sarah Cullip, who is playing at the Breslin for the fourth straight year, hit two free throws with 24 seconds left to seal the deal.
“It was really crucial that I’d been here and played in this gym multiple times before to know that you have to calm down in pressure situation,” said Cullip. “It’s just another free throw. It could be the first play of the game or the play that saves the game.”
Cullip was in foul trouble and played only 15 minutes, but freshman Abbey Ostman came through with 13 rebounds and Wright added 10 to go with her game-high 18 points.
Contact Mick McCabe: 313-223-4744 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mickmccabe1.
More Details: The finals
At Breslin Center, East Lansing
Class A: Westland Glenn vs. Grand Haven, 1; Grosse Pointe South vs. Dexter, 2:50.
Class B: Midland Bullock Creek vs. Flint Powers Catholic, 6; Goodrich vs. Grand Rapids South Christian, 7:50.
Class D — St. Ignace vs. Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes, 10 a.m.; Class A — noon; Class C — Manchester vs. Saginaw Nouvel, 4; Class B — 6.
Tickets: $8 for semifinals, $10 for finals.