EAST LANSING – The motto this postseason for the Maple City Glen Lake girls basketball team was “Slam the door.”
But at halftime of Saturday’s MHSAA Division 4 Final against Baraga, the Lakers still had to find their own way through it.
Thanks to suffocating second-half defense and the inside-outside combination of seniors Ruby Hogan and Maddie Bradford, Glen Lake ran through and slammed the door on a 60-43 win, claiming its first Finals title since 1978.
“We knew we had to come out in the second half like we had in the past few games and just take it to them and be focused,” Hogan said. “Work on our offense, work on our defense and don’t foul them. Then things would come our way. Our motto for the postseason has been ‘Slam the door’ and we definitely have been a second-half team this postseason. Today we proved that again.”
Hogan had 19 points, seven rebounds and five assists for the Lakers, who were making their first Finals appearance since 1979.
“It’s amazing,” said Glen Lake senior guard Gemma Lerchen, who had six assists. “It’s unbelievable to finally be able to get it done. It’s been forever that we’ve worked for this. Through the summer, through the whole year. It just feels so good to get it done.”
Glen Lake coach Jason Bradford, who is in his 15th season at the helm, was well aware of the program’s history and the Finals drought.
His teams have had plenty of success, winning more than 280 games and stepping up their postseason success in recent years, winning Regional titles in five of the past seven seasons.
And when he woke up to hear those traveling from Glen Lake would have to brave a snowstorm to get to the Breslin Center, he became even more confident this could be the year.
“Like I said on Thursday, it seems like the stars were all lining up,” he said. “It’s been 45 years, and 45 years ago, there was a snowstorm (on the day of the Final). My wife called just after 6 (a.m.) and said they were a bit behind with the snowstorm. I looked out the window and I was like, ‘That’s a good sign.’ But it’s unbelievable. We knew we were capable of doing it.”
Maddie Bradford, Jason’s daughter, led all scorers with 28 points. She also had eight rebounds. Eleanor Valkner added 11 rebounds.
Sixteen of those points, and 17 of Hogan’s, came in the second half as the Lakers turned the tide in a game during which they trailed by five at halftime.
“I just focused on, if I’m not open and not able to hit those shots, I trust my team,” Hogan said. “That’s what I need to do and that’s what all of us need to do, is trust each other. If I’m not open and I’m not hitting my shots, then Maddie can and Jessie (Pugh) can and Olivia (Mikowski) can. I know that I’ll have my time when I’m needing to make shots. But in the first half, it just wasn’t my time. It was my time to play defense and my time to pass the ball.”
The first half was the time for Baraga star guard Corina Jahfetson to hit shots, as she scored 14 of her 20 points in the opening 16 minutes, including four 3-pointers. Glen Lake held her to six points and 2 of 15 shooting, including 1 of 12 from 3, in the second half.
“It was not really the attention factor, I was just not feeling it in that second half,” Jahfetson said. “I kept trying to push it through and do what I had to do.”
As a team, Baraga struggled from the field in the second half as Glen Lake’s defense improved. The Vikings (23-6) were 4 of 22 from the field in the second half, and went scoreless for more than 5 minutes at one point in the third quarter.
“We came out better than we usually do in the first half,” Baraga coach Tyler Larson said. “We’re used to playing from behind in a lot of games. I thought we had a great start, things were falling in our favor. We came out in the second half, they made some good adjustments, credit to them. Some of the size factor played in there. I think we needed to do a better job boxing out, and transition points that we didn’t want to let up. That’s a good ballclub right there that we just played, and our girls fought to the end. Just really proud of what they’ve done this game and all season long.”
Makenna Hendrickson had 14 points for Baraga, while Jahfetson added seven rebounds to her 20 points in Baraga’s first Finals appearance.
“It means so much to be here sitting with these girls and coach Ty,” Jahfetson said. “I’m happy that we’re state runner-up. It would have been amazing to be No. 1, but not everything works out that way.”
PHOTOS (Top) Maple City Glen Lake celebrates its Division 4 championship Saturday as coach Jason Bradford presents the trophy to his team. (Middle) The Lakers’ Maddie Bradford (10) works to get up a shot while defended by Jaycee Larson. (Below) Ruby Hogan (20) gets to the basket.