Facing the top team in the state in St. Ignace, the Climax-Scotts girls’ basketball team never backed down in Thursday night’s Class D state semifinal.
But at the end of the day, the tournament-tested Saints were too much for the Panthers to handle, as St. Ignace moved on to Saturday’s state final with a 42-36 victory in what was an extremely competitive Final Four matchup.
Climax-Scotts ended its season with a 20-6 record, becoming just the second team in program history to advance to the Breslin Center.
“I can’t be any prouder of my girls,” said Climax-Scotts head coach Dana Perrin. “We took on the No. 1 ranked team in the state – ranked No. 1 from the get-go – and gave them probably gave them the best game they’ve played all year.
“I told my girls after the game, there is nothing to hang their heads about, nothing to be sad about, we went out and we left everything we had out on the court. And we gave them a game.”
The Panthers took a 34-33 lead on a jump shot from senior guard Stephanie Cochran with just under five minutes remaining.
But the Saints, making their third straight Final Four trip and their first since moving down to Class D, went on a 10-3 run to end the game. St. Ignace senior Sarah Cullip all but sealed it when she hit both free throws with 24 seconds remaining to give her team a 41-36 advantage.
Climax-Scotts was led in the defeat by senior center Fallon Froberg with 14 points and seven rebounds. Also for the Panthers, senior forward Destiny Froberg had eight points and seven rebounds, Janae Langs had five points and three steals and Annalisa Lodes had seven rebounds.
St. Ignace was led by junior Kelley Wright with 18 points. Wright, a first-team All-State selection, also had three steals for a Saints defense that forced 20 Climax-Scotts turnovers.
Climax-Scotts’ Fallon Froberg let it be known early that the Panthers were no pushover, scoring on a nice pick-and-roll to open the contest.
With 3:13 left in the first quarter, Climax-Scotts held its collective breath when Langs hit the floor clutching her knee. The Grand Valley State-bound Langs had missed most of the season after suffering her second anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury in as many years. But with a little under two minutes left in the frame, Langs re-entered the game and showed no hesitation attacking the basket.
“Nothing ever feels serious now, having gone through ACL surgery is pretty serious, so a little tweak here and there doesn’t bother me,” Langs said. “So it was just about being able to suck it up and get back out there.”
The six-point win tied for the second smallest margin of victory for St. Ignace this season. That was no surprise for Perrin, who is accustomed to her squad overcoming odds.
“This is a hard one, but we’re proud of our accomplishments and overcame a lot of adversity to get here in the first place,” Perrin said. “At our school, we made history. Haven’t been here since ’86, so I am very proud of these girls and I keep reminding them that. They will forever be held on that banner at our school. They will always be talked about.”
Climax-Scotts seniors Fallon Froberg, Destiny Froberg, Langs, Cochran, Lodes, Megan Smith and Stephanie Ashley ended their Panthers careers by adding some more hardware to the school’s trophy case. And while the Panthers didn’t get a chance to bring home the big trophy they wanted, the 2012-13 squad will leave quite a legacy at the school.
“With our record coming in … we had lost five games and a lot of people didn’t think we would make it this far. And we did,” Cochran said fighting back tears.
“We can’t really hang our heads. They’re the No. 1 team in the state, they’re a great team. And we fought. Our coach told us to go down swinging and we did. I think we gave them a pretty big fight.”
NOTES: At halftime, the Climax-Scotts student section spotted the Athens student section across the court, and started chanting, “We-want-Athens!” Athens’ students then got up and joined the Panthers’ faithful to give a boost to an already loud cheering section. Following the game, the Panthers chanted “Good luck Athens!”