Schoolcraft secured the District 80 girls basketball championship Friday in a 38-31 defensive battle over district host Centreville. It is the fifth district crown in six years for the Eagles, who also snapped a Bulldog home winning streak that dated back to January 29, 2016.
“We had to surpass Centreville’s energy on their home floor and I thought we did,” said Schoolcraft head coach Steve Kulczyk.
The Eagles opened with a 7-0 lead in the first four minutes, followed by both teams locking down defensively for a 12-4 halftime score. Centreville was back within four early in the third quarter, but Schoolcraft reclaimed the momentum as a Savannah Seath three-pointer at the third quarter horn gave the Eagles a 23-11 advantage.
“Traditionally, we don’t play much of a pressure defense, it’s something that’s hard for us to model,” said Bulldogs head coach Jill Peterson. “Last year against Brandywine (in the regional final) and this year, we were on our heels the first half. And then we get used to that tempo and we become the aggressor a little more.”
The Bulldogs would battle back as Joanna Larsen began to find success under the hoop, especially after Anna Schuppel ran into foul trouble for Schoolcraft. Centreville opened the fourth with a 6-0 run, but the Eagles answered with a 7-0 run to get their biggest lead of the night at 30-17. But the Bulldogs wouldn’t go away as a Larsen bucket-and-foul sent Schuppel from the game midway through the fourth.
“In a weird way, Schuppel fouling out made my decision a lot easier,” said Kulczyk. “We were contemplating, ‘when do we slow it down?'”
Centreville made it back within four again as a few three-pointers fell late, but Schoolcraft played keep away and drained the clock on their possessions. Point guard Gabi Saxman’s ball handling burned time and forced the Bulldogs to foul in order to regain possession.
“Even as they creep closer, Gabi Saxman, put the ball in her hands,” said Kulcyzk. “She’s a champion and whatever the results were, she was getting the ball.”
For Centreville, Larsen had a game-high 14 points, including nine in the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs finish the season at 21-2 and graduate a tremendous senior group of Larsen, Asia Pratel, Caitlyn Loker, Grace Edwards, Kenleigh West-Wing, Olivia Deeds, Madison Schrader, and Isabel Stauffer. Over the last four years, that group finished with a 83-7 record, four conference championships, and a regional final appearance in 2019.
“The example they have set with everything in terms of being a good teammate, being a good leader, being somebody that works hard, they’ve modeled that for the underclassmen,” said Peterson. “I’m proud of their efforts tonight, this season, and for their careers. They each brought something different to the table and contributed in their own special way. They played well, did good, and became great, not just on the basketball court, but in life.”
Eight Eagles added points with Allie Walther the top scorer at 10 points. Schoolcraft improves to 20-2 and hosts next week’s regional tournament. They get a chance at revenge against Gobles, who eliminated them in last season’s district tournament. The Tigers (19-3) defeated Bloomingdale 42-32 in their district final Friday. You can listen to Tuesday’s semifinal live via JoeInsider.com with tip around 7 p.m. ET.
On the other side of the regional bracket, defending champ Brandywine (22-1)will battle Hackett Catholic (19-4) at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, which will also be aired live via JoeInsider.com. The Irish defeated Kalamazoo Christian 44-27 and the Bobcats pummeled Decatur 73-25 in the adjacent district finals.
Video by Tyler Carpenter
Allie Walther 10 points
Gabi Saxman 6 points
Savannah Seath 5 points
Anna Schuppel 5 points
Adrienne Rosey 4 points
Mackenzie Miller 4 points
Kayla Onken 3 points
Paige Reid 1 point
Free Throws: 10-22
Three Pointers: 4
Joanna Larsen 14 points
Olivia Deeds 8 points
Kenleigh West-Wing 5 points
Grace Edwards 2 points
Faith Edwards 2 points
Free Throws: 7-10
Three Pointers: 2