EAST LANSING - Traverse City St. Francis’s dream season ended in bitter disappointment on Saturday, as a strong second half performance by Flint Beecher lifted the Buccaneers to a 64-50 victory in the MHSAA Division 3 State Championship Game.
The Gladiators (24-5) fell behind early in the first quarter, as the Bucs raced out to an 8-0 lead. St. Francis settled down after a timeout and took a 17-15 lead after the first quarter when senior Wyatt Nausadis connected on a deep three-pointer at the buzzer.
St. Francis kept its strong play going in the second, led by Nausadis and senior center John Hagelstein. The Gladiators took a 30-27 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Flint Beecher responded in the third quarter, limiting Nausadis to just two points in the quarter while out-scoring St. Francis 20-7 to take a 47-37 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Beecher standout Robert Lee Jr. scored 13 points in the third quarter.
“Second half they made a couple runs, which they’re going to do that. We just struggled to finish a little bit at times and gave up a few easy looks that were a little uncharacteristic,” said St. Francis head coach Sean Finnegan.
Beecher was able to force 16 Gladiator turnovers and outscored St. Francis 21-6 in points off turnovers.
Lee Jr. led all scorers with 29 points for the game. Nausadis paced Traverse City St. Francis with 20 while Hagelstein finished with 12 points.
Nausadis and Hagelstein are two of seven seniors on this Gladiator team.
“That’s meant everything to me, the fact that I was trusted as a freshman and now I’m a senior and we got to the Breslin and we did something that hasn’t been done in a while,” said Nausadis.
“I can’t say how proud I am of the boys and the fact that we’re here and had the opportunity we had and battled the way we did today,” said Finnegan.
This was Traverse City St. Francis’s first appearance in the State Finals since losing to Flint Beecher in 2012. The Buccaneers earned their 10th state championship, the second-most in state history behind River Rouge.