EAST LANSING — The Defenders will once again have a chance to do just that.
In what has become a usual rite of March during longtime head coach Mark Keeler’s 36-year tenure, the Wyoming Tri-unity Christian Defenders are once again headed for the Division 4 boys basketball championship game following a 54-37 win over Frankfort in a Semifinal on Thursday.
Making its third-straight appearance in a Final and 11th in school history, Tri-unity Christian will attempt to repeat as champion when it faces Munising in the 10 a.m. title game Saturday.
Junior Owen Rosendall scored 13 points and senior Roy Fogg added 11 on Thursday to lead Tri-unity Christian (22-6), which will go for its sixth Finals win.
“At the beginning of the year, we had some ups and downs in the season,” Rosendall said. “But we stuck to it and kept working.”
Tri-unity Christian got it done mainly by dominating the board, collecting a 41-22 rebounding advantage.
“I think our quickness on the boards outdid their size,” Keeler said. “I was really happy with how explosive we were on the boards.”
The discrepancy even surprised Frankfort head coach Dan Loney, who said rebounding has been a strength of his team all year.
“Going into the game, I would not have guessed they would have outrebounded us like that,” Loney said. “It’s one thing we’ve done well all year. I think honestly a lot of that came from their guard play. When their guards got to the rim (and) our bigs stepped over to help, their bigs were there to get their missed layups.”
Sophomore Carter Kerby led all scorers with 21 points to pace Frankfort (18-9).
“It was a fun season for sure. We look forward to the future,” Loney said.
Tri-unity Christian separated itself in the third quarter after Frankfort cut the lead to 29-26 with 4:40 to go in the period.
From there, Tri-unity Christian ended the third on an 11-1 run to take a 40-27 lead into the fourth quarter.
“We have a little more depth, and it helped,” Keeler said. “We were really trying to push the ball, and we were really trying to pressure them on defense. I think we wore them down a little bit.”
The Defenders continued to grow the lead in the fourth, taking a 48-32 advantage with 4:17 remaining after a 3-pointer by Rosendall and a basket by Akais Giplaye.
Tri-Unity Christian forced Frankfort into 12 turnovers and 38.9-percent shooting from the field while committing only six turnovers itself.
“We played great defense,” Keeler said. “That is what I was really happy about. We made them work for everything they had.”
Tri-unity Christian got off to a good start, taking a 16-8 lead after the first quarter before Frankfort settled in during the second.
Frankfort outscored Tri-unity Christian 13-9 in the second quarter to cut its deficit to 25-21 by halftime.
PHOTOS (Top) Tri-unity’s Jordan VanKlompenberg (3) puts up a shot over the outstretched arm of Frankfort’s Xander Sauer on Thursday. (Middle) Emmerson Farmer (0) gets a hand up high as Owen Rosendall puts up a jumper.