by Peter Jakey–Managing Editor
The Lady Cardinals (8-8) erased a six-point Hillman (10-6) lead in the final 90 seconds to survive and advance on the opening night of the state playoffs, 45-44, and was set to play Inland Lakes in the second game Wednesday (past press time).
Breya Domke’s jumper with 16.3 seconds put Onaway ahead 43-42 and Taylor Larson iced the game with two clutch free throws while her team was in the bonus. The second one proved to be the game-winner.
When the buzzer sounded, Cardinals’ coach John George had his first playoff win ever in four tries, all against Hillman.
“They have had our number for some reason. It was a great game all around. It feels great,” said George after emerging from the victorious locker room. “I am pretty proud of them. It really shows what we are capable of.”
Larson had felt the sting of two previous losses to Hillman and had a rough night at the free-throw line in last year’s playoff game. She worked hard on her free-throw shooting in the offseason and it paid off.
“It felt really good getting those free throws, I know our season depended on it and I knew I had to do it for the seniors,” said Larson as she was getting congratulated by her classmates.
It was a contest where the Cardinals came back three times.
The first time was to dig out of an 11-0 start. The Cards were slow out of the gate against Hillman’s defense, managing only four shots in five minutes.
“We talked about weathering the storm,” said George. “That’s what tournament basketball is all about. How many times do you see it, it is a game of runs.”
It was Cloe Ehrke’s 3-pointer that lit a fire under the squad.
From the 1:42 mark of the first until halftime, it was all Cardinals with a pair of layup points from Madilyn Crull and a pair of treys from both Larson and Domke who were part of a 17-8 run. The halftime score was 20-19 in favor of the Cards.
Hillman came right out and asserted itself again in the second half, going on an 10-2 run to take a 30-23 lead.
Domke was the only Cardinal to score in the third, willing herself to six points before heading to the bench and sitting gingerly in her chair on the bench looking to be some pain.
Hillman’s lead was 32-27 at the start of the fourth until Larson started a 6-1 run with another 3-pointer. The Onaway lead was 36-33 before momentum shifted again.
Hillman again pulled ahead by making 5-of-6 from the free-throw line and a pair of buckets.
The score was 42-36 when Crull stole the ball and went in for a layup. That play provided the final spark.
A Hillman player failed to make the front end of a bonus situation, and when Domke grabbed the defensive board, she dribbled it the other way for a layup and made good on her free throw after being fouled. That cut Hillman’s lead to one, 42-41.
The Cards set up for full-court defensive pressure and Crull got a steal on her end of the court and was trapped in front of her bench, but a quick timeout from George kept the possession and gave Domke a chance to make her clutch jumper to give Onaway its third comeback of the contest and a chance to get closer to a district trophy.
Vikings prep for tourney with win over Hurons
The Rogers City (5-11) girls’ basketball season came to an end, not on the hardcourt, but with a student testing positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The school issued a statement Sunday evening explaining the situation.
“Rogers City Area Schools has had a positive COVID-19 contact in the high school and middle school. Students who need to quarantine have been contacted. Due to this quarantine the Rogers City girls’ basketball team will not be able to participate in this year’s high school state tournament,” the prepared statement read.
Rogers City coach Duane Pitts offered some perspective on the situation.
“In our virtual team meeting on Sunday night, I made sure to point out how lucky we were to play 16 games this season. I love this sport and these kids, so this is tough, but I was so proud of how they handled this situation with a lot of maturity and class. It is a shame that the season ends this way, but we all have a lot of positives and wonderful memories from this season that will be with us forever,” Pitts said.
Last Thursday in the final regular-season game for both Rogers City and Posen, Rogers City scored first, keeping Posen off the scoreboard until the 2:38 mark of the first quarter but the Vikings prevailed in a 40-17 win.
A 3-pointer at the 3:21 mark of the first quarter by Huron point guard Samantha Williams opened the scoring in a slow-paced start to the basketball game, the last one of the regular season for both teams.
From then on Posen took charge, blanking the Hurons until the closing moments of the second quarter when Chloe Hentkowski hit a long jumper with 18 seconds left in the first half.
In the 26-0 run, the Vikings used a box-and-one with defensive specialist Elizabeth Romel shadowing Rogers City’s top scorer Karissa Rabeau, denying the ball to the senior forward. Rabeau was held without a field goal in the contest. Romel also got the scoring going with a 3-pointer from the right wing.
A pair of free throws by Posen’s Makayla Kamyszek with 20 seconds left in the first quarter gave the Vikings an 11-3 lead. Ella Szatkowski kept the ball rolling with a short jumper to open the second quarter. A 3-pointer by sophomore point guard Faith Cousins gave Posen a 26-3 lead with 46 seconds to go in the half.
Szatkowski scored 12, Kamyszek had 10 and Cousins added nine points for Posen.
“We played our third game in a row on the road and I think the girls did a great defensive job tonight. We didn’t have the ball as much as we usually do. Rogers City played a slowed-down offense. We got what we wanted and I’m really happy with this one going into the districts,” said Posen’s coach Karl Momrik.
Posen (13-1) played in the Wolverine Division 4 district tournament facing Wolverine March 24 at 5:30 p.m. (after press time). The championship game is set for March 26 at 6 p.m. in Wolverine.
Williams led Rogers City with six points while Grace Garrison scored five.
“We did some better things and we did pretty well in the first quarter then we ran into a lull in the second quarter,” Pitts said.
In a game played March 17 at Indian River, the Bulldogs defeated the Hurons 37-29. The hosts led 14-10 at halftime and used a 10-3 edge in the third quarter to pull ahead for good.
Rabeau led the team with 16 points and Ryleigh Talaske added six on a pair of 3-pointers.