James De Bruyn has been at the helm at Grand Rapids South Christian since 1989 and finds himself one game away from a Class B state girls basketball title after a 52-47 victory over Midland Bullock Creek Friday night at the Breslin Center.
Last year the Sailors lost to Goodrich in the semifinals while the Lancers fell to Flint Powers.
“We took our time this year,” said De Bruyn. “We were the second game last year. We hurried onto the court, we played and we hurried home. We have seven seniors on the team who were here last year and I think that experience helped.”
This time the Sailors get a chance to stay for the championship game.
Turnovers dominated the game with South Christian (26-0) committing 33 and the Lancers 19.
“We had a little turnover problem tonight,” said De Bruyn. “The last game we had five. No. 1 it was a little bit of jitters. We had 11 in the first quarter and 19 in the first half. We knew we had to take care of the ball. We just tried to hurry to fast. We were very fortunate tonight. They packed it in and we couldn’t get it inside.”
Locked in a 35-34 battle to start the fourth, the Sailors held onto the ball long enough to outscore the Lancers 17-13.
Sub Jennifer DeBoer made two free throws to make it 44-41 and a jump shot by Dani Oeverman increased the advantage to 46-41. Cassidy Vredevoogd followed with two free throws and the winners were up 48-41 and finished the game making their final four free throws.
Morgan Torres and sophomore Markayla Vander led the winners with 11 points with Vander getting all her points in the first half.
“She has a lot of energy, sometimes too much, but we needed that tonight,” said De Bruyn.
After a fast start the Lancers (24-2) Halee Nieman finished with 18.
“We tried to be big inside and take some things away from here in the second half,” said Vredevoogd.
Six miscues early in the third period led to a 9-2 run that gave the Lancers a 33-29 lead on four straight points by junior Hannah Heldt, who scored 16 points before fouling out.
South Christian responded with a 6-0 run led by Vredevoogd’s four points to reassume the lead 35-33.
“I thought it was two really good teams out there and it could have went either way,” said Lancers Coach Justin Freeland, who has a team dominated by freshmen and sophomores. “Hopefully we’ll take those final two steps we need next year.”
Heldt said: “This will only help us over the summer. We did better than last year and we expect to get back here.”
Contact Perry A. Farrell: 313-222-2555 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @farrellperry.