TC St. Francis Upends Niles Brandywine in State Semifinal

EAST LANSING – For the first time in program history, the Traverse City St. Francis girls basketball team will play for a state championship.

The third-ranked Gladiators moved past Niles Brandywine in a Class C state semifinal via a 53-40 win Thursday at Michigan State’s Breslin Center.

St. Francis advances to Saturday’s state championship game, where it will face top-ranked Ypsilanti Arbor Prep. The Gators handed Ithaca a 72-44 loss in Thursday’s second semifinal.

"I’ve been down here a few times as a coach and usually the team that shoots a little better usually at this point wins the game,” St. Francis head coach Keith Haske said. “Obviously they struggled from the 3-point line, which has been their game all year and it kind of went in our favor that way.

“I thought the second half, we did a great job getting the ball in the paint, down to Juliana and I thought maybe that was one of the differences in the game."

Holding a four-point, 22-18, halftime lead, St. Francis (26-1) turned up its offense in the second half behind a game-high 17 points and 12 rebounds from junior Juliana Phillips.

“They didn’t have a lot of height on their team, so we just kind of tried to play a little high-low, in and out,” Phillips said.

Leading 37-31 through three quarters, the Gladiators took their largest lead of the day on a 3-pointer from Sarah Chouinard with 6:36 remaining in the regulation. Chouinard would finish the game with 13 points and seven rebounds.

Lauren McDonnell recorded a double-double for St. Francis, tallying 10 points and 11 rebounds.

Thursday’s semifinal appearance was just the third in school history and first since 1991, when St. Francis fell to Potterville. It also marked the first time the Gladiators have competed at the Breslin Center since the MHSAA moved the state finals to East Lansing in 2010.

Tip-off for Saturday’s state final is 4 p.m.