EAST LANSING ― Brenna Wirth now has the upper hand at the dinner table.
The Pewamo-Westphalia girls basketball senior has heard stories about her mother’s trip to the state quarterfinals as a member of the Pirates’ team in the late 1980s. Wirth heard similar stories from her dad, whose Pewamo-Westphalia team made it to the state semifinals in the early 1990s. Her stepsister made it to the state semifinals in the early 2000s.
Wirth now has an opportunity to do what no one in her family ― or anyone in school history ― has done on the basketball court, as she and the Class C No. 6-ranked Pirates are one win away from raising the first basketball state championship trophy in school history.
Wirth, who averages 4.4 points per game, scored a season-high 13 points Thursday afternoon to help Pewamo-Westphalia top Maple City Glen Lake, 64-51, at Michigan State’s Breslin Center in the program’s first state semifinal appearance in 15 seasons.
“Both of my parents will be really happy,” the senior said. “It’s a special opportunity for my family.
“Looking back, when I was a little kid, you always dreamed of it. And now, we’re finally here. It’s such a blessing.”
Let the celebration begin for the Pirates pic.twitter.com/cGvV1NtIdI— James Edwards III (@JLEdwardsIII) March 16, 2017
The Pirates (24-2) will take on No. 5-ranked Detroit Edison PSA in Saturday’s Class C state championship showdown. The program will play in a state title game for the first time since 1984.
Out of its six postseason games, Pewamo-Westphalia has won five by a double-digit margin. Coach Steve Eklund said his team’s only single-digit victory, which was against Grand Rapids Covenant Christian in a regional semifinal matchup, was an eye-opening moment for his club.
“We got some confidence,” he added. “The regular season, I don’t know if we really got the big win in the regular season. Bath was the favorite in our conference. (They) had a lot of experience, and we were a younger team.
“I look at that Covenant Christian game last Tuesday when they really brought the whip to us a little bit. I think we realized tournament-style basketball ― it’s a physical game. We’re not the most physical, biggest team around. …We fought through and grinded out a 34-31 win. I think, since then, we’ve been playing the same way.”
The Pirates’ toughness on Thursday was embodied in all-state junior guard Emily Spitzley and junior forward Kate Hengesbach. Spitzley scored a game-high 24 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. Hengesbach, off the bench, scored nine points and also hauled in 12 rebounds.
After a back-and-forth first quarter, the contest proved to be a game of runs. With the score tied at 16-16 midway through the second quarter, the Lakers (23-4) broke off a 9-0 run to take a 25-16 lead. Pewamo-Westphalia retaliated with an 8-0 run to end the first half.
The Pirates picked up where they left off at the beginning of the third quarter when they began with a 7-0 spurt to take a six-point lead. Wirth and Spitzley combined to score all of the team’s points during that stretch.
Maple City Glen Lake came right back with a 7-0 run of its own, but Pewamo-Westphalia closed out the quarter by outscoring the Lakers, 14-6. The Pirates seized control of the game when a bucket by Spitzley early in the fourth quarter, with her team leading by only one point, led to eight straight Pewamo-Westphalia points ― six of which came from the free-throw line.
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“We had it in our mind that we were going to keep fighting, end their run, and come back with our own,” Spitzley said. “We did that.
“It’s just about confidence, and we didn’t give up on ourselves.”
Ellie Droste scored eight points for Pewamo-Westphalia.
Maple City Glen Lake was led in scoring by Allie Bozelet’s 14 points. Jennifer LaCross added 13 points, and Kelly Bunek scored 11 points.
Contact James L. Edwards III at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JLEdwardsIII.