The season ended for the Schoolcraft girls basketball team in Tuesday’s Class C quarterfinal at Bronson, as the Eagles lost to Ypsilanti Arbor Prep 61-55. Despite the stellar effort by Schoolcraft, the defending Class B runner-up and Class C champ two seasons ago ended up being too much to handle.
“They have a lot of talent. It’s tough to stop talent,” said Schoolcraft coach Steve Kulcyzk.
Neither team had a decisive advantage for most of the game with eight total lead changes and six ties. Until the final minute, the lead was never above two possessions. The game was tied 12-12 after the first quarter and 28-26 at halftime in favor of the Gators.
Six of the eight lead changes came in the third quarter with Arbor Prep holding a 43-41 advantage by the end of the frame. The Eagles tied the game to start the fourth, but would never get back ahead. The Gators put together an 8-2 run for a six-point lead, but the Eagles were back within three after a Kennedy Leighton triple. Halfway through the fourth, it was 51-48.
The Gators got one free throw, followed by a Schoolcraft bucket for a two-point deficit. That would be as close as the Eagles would get. Kashyra Jackson responded with about three minutes left for a four-point Arbor Prep lead. The Gators stole away the ball and Miss Basketball finalist Lasha Petree scored off an offensive rebound.
With 1:58 left, Lydia Goble made two free throws for a 56-52 score. Arbor Prep missed and lost the ball out of bounds on the ensuing possession. However, the Eagles missed on two opportunities and were forced to foul with 34.5 remaining. Mahri Petree hit both of the bonus shots for a 58-52 Gator lead.
Schoolcraft couldn’t convert on a triple, followed by two more Arbor Prep made free throws. Goble nailed a three with 11.1 remaining for faint hope, but Arbor Prep got the inbound in and added one more free throw to seal the 61-55 win.
The Eagles were led by 20 points from senior Lydia Goble, who also passed the 1000 career point mark during the game. Sophomore Gabi Saxman was next with 15, followed by 11 from Kennedy Leighton. Goble, Leighton, and Clara Hedges are the three seniors who graduate in the spring.
“Four consecutive district championships, two regional championships, quarterfinalists. Any four-year period of Schoolcraft girls basketball can’t compete with that,” noted Kulczyk.
“I’m proud of my team for hanging with them for as long as we did,” said Goble, who is committed to play softball next year at Grand Valley State.
“Coach Kulczyk has changed the game of basketball for me. I’ve always been a softball person, but he turned it into a game that I now love and I’m gonna miss for the rest of my life.”
Tuesday’s game is Schoolcraft’s lone loss, as they finish 24-1. However, Kulcyzk doesn’t see a blemish.
“It’s a perfect season. These girls did everything a coach could ever ask. They came to work every day. I’ve never had chemistry on a team like this team. We truly are family. That is one reason why we made it as far as we have.”
Although they lose three seniors, the Eagles have plenty of talent back for next season.
“I’ve very proud of them, they’re going to go a long ways,” said Goble. “We’ve got some middle-schoolers coming up that are going to contribute a lot. The Eagles program is going to continue to be an awesome one.”
For Arbor Prep, they improve to 20-5 and return to the final four. Despite opening their doors in 2011, Arbor Prep will be making their fourth semifinal appearance. Lasha Petree led them with 20 points, followed by 11 from sister Jala. They’ll meet Glen Lake (23-2) in Thursday’s semifinal at 2 p.m. from Calvin College.
ARBOR PREP SCORING: Lasha Petree 20, Jala Petree 11, Kelli Davis 10, Karli Waddell 9, Mahri Petree 6, Kashyra Jackson 5.
SCHOOLCRAFT SCORING: Lydia Goble 20, Gabi Saxman 15, Kennedy Leighton 11, Anna Schuppel 9.
Video by Mat Stutzman
Photos by Nicci Plummer