EAST LANSING – Traverse City St. Francis continued its strong defensive play, stifling Niles Brandywine in a 46-36 victory in the Division 3 State Semifinals on Thursday afternoon.
The Gladiators held the Bobcats to just 36% shooting from the field, out-rebounded them 36-24, and recorded 12 steals to earn the victory.
St. Francis trailed by two points at the end of the first quarter, 11-9, but a quick 10-0 run early in the second quarter sparked by Wyatt Nausadis allowed the Gladiators to take the lead. They would hold a 23-19 edge at halftime.
The Bobcats came out of the locker room strong to start the third quarter, using a quick 7-0 run to take the lead. The Gladiators recovered from that, out-scoring Niles Brandywine 12-2 over the remainder of the third quarter to regain the lead.
Wyatt Nausadis led the way for St. Francis with 21 points, seven rebounds and seven steals. John Hagelstein added nine points and 15 rebounds.
“I’m really proud of the boys, what they’ve done to get to this point,” head coach Sean Finnegan said after the game. “That’s the type of defense we want to play. We figure that if we play the way we should defensively, with our rotations, that make other teams adjust to us, rather than adjusting to them,” he said, adding “if the effort’s there, if the execution’s there, we like our chances.”
With the victory, the Gladiators advance to Saturday’s Division 3 State Championship Game at the Breslin Center, where they will face 2021 champion Flint Beecher. The Bucs advanced with a 64-54 semifinal win over Ecorse.
“Going into this school year, our goal was to win both football and basketball, and we fell short in football,” said Nausadis, a St. Francis senior. “That first week of basketball [practice] was pretty rough for me, and all of the football players up here. It was hard to enjoy. And then once we started playing, I think we were all like ‘okay, now it’s time to buy into this, win a state championship in this one.’ And we’re one step closer, and it would mean a lot.”
The title game tips off at 4:30 p.m.