For the second consecutive season, the Schoolcraft Eagles will be playing in the Class C girls basketball quarterfinals. Schoolcraft defeated Niles Brandywine 50-43 in Thursday’s regional final at Bridgman, keeping their unbeaten season and state title aspirations alive.
The first quarter had three ties and the game’s only lead change, with Brandywine beginning briefly ahead. Much like the regional semifinal against Hackett Catholic, senior guard Lydia Goble came out firing. Goble scored 12 of Schoolcraft’s 16 first quarter points for 16-11 Eagle lead after one.
“I struggled a little bit during warmups, I was a little bit worried,” said Goble. “But once I hit a couple shots, you get your confidence back.”
Goble added another seven in the second quarter for 19 points by halftime. The Eagles extended the lead to eight, before settling on a 27-22 halftime lead.
Brandywine never let the Eagles pull away and stayed within one possession for much of the second half. They were down 35-31 entering the fourth quarter and began the frame on a 6-2 run, tying the game on a Kennedy Byrd bucket at 37-37 with 4:50 left. However, they couldn’t grab the lead and wouldn’t get back to even the rest of the way.
Schoolcraft reclaimed the lead as Goble found an open Anna Schuppel for two. After trading misses, Goble assisted Chloe Outman for a 41-37 lead with 2:57 remaining. The Bobcats got back within two on a Byrd steal-and-score with 1:36 to go, followed by their fourth timeout.
The Eagles answered as Kennedy Leighton fed Schuppel for two down low. However, Byrd quickly buried a three, putting the Bobcats down by one with 1:10 left. Brandywine got a block and drove to the hoop, but Goble took the charge on a hard collision for Schoolcraft with 51 seconds remaining. The Bobcats quickly fouled, the fifth against all-state guard Zakiyyah Abdullah, who the Eagles held to only three points.
Gabi Saxman hit the front end of the one-and-one, but missed the back end, giving Brandywine the ball after a rebound. Megan Schmidt missed the three-point try with 22.7 to go, giving the Eagles the inbound. However, the Bobcats stole the ball and immediately called their final timeout, behind 44-42.
Surprisingly, Byrd tried a three right off the inbound and missed, but Nicole Sachman snagged an offensive board and drew a shooting foul. She missed the first shot and hit the second, putting the Bobcats back behind by one. They immediately fouled Goble, who drained both bonus free throws with 15.3 remaining for a 45-42 lead. The Bobcats botched their inbound, hitting off the foot of Schmidt and bouncing out of bounds.
Saxman got fouled off the inbound and hit both shots for a two-possession lead. Goble delivered the final dagger with two more free throws after a steal for the 50-43 final.
“I think we just faced arguably the best opponent we’ve faced all year,” said Schoolcraft coach Steve Kulczyk. “We haven’t dealt with a whole lot of adversity during our year, but this tournament we have.”
It’s his first quarterfinal as a head coach, as he took over for Doug Flynn for this season, Kulczyk previously coached the Schoolcraft girls in the 1990s.
Goble led all players with 26 points, including a 9-10 mark at the free throw line. Saxman was next with 10 points, six coming at the foul line.
“We’ve struggled all year with our free throws, so to finally make it count in a game that really matters, it’s awesome,” noted Goble. As a team, they were 15-21.
Brandywine’s Sachman had 15 points, followed by 12 from Byrd. The Bobcats finish 22-3 and graduate only two seniors, Melanie Martinez and Alexia Martinez.
Schoolcraft moves to 24-0, matching last season’s program-best postseason run. They meet Ypsilanti Arbor Prep Tuesday at 6 p.m. from Bronson and you can listen to the quarterfinal live via JoeInsider.com. Arbor Prep was the Class B state runner up last season, they enter Tuesday’s contest at 19-5. Two seasons ago, they were Class C champs.
SCHOOLCRAFT SCORING: Lydia Goble 26, Gabi Saxman 10, Anna Schuppel 8, Chloe Outman 6.
BRANDYWINE SCORING: Nicole Sachman 15, Kennedy Byrd 2, Megan Schmidt 7, Zakiyyah Abdullah 3, Madison Bailey 3, Melanie Martinez 3.