EAST LANSING — The seniors on the Traverse City St. Francis boys basketball team are going to have to change their spring break plans.
Senior and leading scorer Wyatt Nausadis said a group of seniors on the team were originally supposed to leave later Thursday for a spring break trip to Destin, Fla., but a little something got in the way.
That “little something” was a Division 3 Semifinal win over Niles Brandywine, as the Gladiators earned a 46-36 triumph.
The victory advanced St. Francis to Saturday’s 4:30 p.m. championship game against Flint Beecher, a development that will shorten the spring break trip in a good way.
“When was departure supposed to be?” St. Francis head coach Sean Finnegan said to his players in the postgame press conference.
“Today,” Nausadis said.
Finnegan then asked “When will departure now be?”
Nausadis then responded, “Sunday.”
Finnegan then smiled and said “perfect.”
The Gladiators hope their appearance in the Basketball Final will end differently than the Division 7 Football Final in November, when St. Francis lost to Jackson Lumen Christi, 15-12.
“It would mean a lot,” said Nausadis, who was the quarterback on the football team. “Going into this school year, our goal was to win both football and basketball. We fell short in football. That first week of basketball was pretty rough for me and all the other football players. It was hard to enjoy. Once we started playing, we all were like, ‘It’s time to buy into this. Let’s win a state championship in this one. We’re one step closer.”
Defense and Nausadis were the big edges Thursday for St. Francis, which limited Brandywine to 36.4-percent shooting from the field overall and a 2-of-13 performance from 3-point range.
The Gladiators also held a 36-24 rebounding advantage.
“Defense is our staple,” Finnegan said. “That’s where we put our pride and joy. Maybe not joy all the time, but that’s our pride. I believe we’ve given up over 40 one time in the tournament so far. We put a lot of attention and a lot of detail there. Our offense gets a lot easier when our defense is working and clicking how it should.”
Offensively, Nausadis led the way with 21 points and seven rebounds for St. Francis (24-4).
Junior Jaremiah Palmer scored eight points to lead Brandywine (25-3), which was playing in the program's first Semifinal.
“We just couldn’t get over the hump,” Brandywine head coach Nathan Knapp said. “We couldn’t finish some shots tonight. They didn’t go our way. I’m happy with these kids and the season they’ve had. It’s been an amazing run, and they play hard.”
Leading by three with 7:28 remaining, St. Francis scored six straight to grab a 41-32 lead with 3:11 left.
Brandywine scored four straight to cut its deficit to five with 2:08 remaining, but a free throw by Nausadis with just under a minute left made it 42-36 St. Francis.
Following a Brandywine turnover, Nausadis hit another free throw with 49.4 seconds left to give St. Francis a seven-point lead.
After another Brandywine turnover, St. Francis all but sealed the game when John Hagelstein made a layup with 33.8 seconds left to make it 45-36 Gladiators.
St. Francis now will turn its attention to the juggernaut that is Beecher.
However, the Gladiators enter with confidence not only because of their familiarity with the big stage after football season, but also because they played several larger schools during the summer and regular season.
Canton and Detroit Cass Tech are Division 1 schools St. Francis played at home this year.
“I think that’s prepared them,” Finnegan said. “They know they can play with any team in the state. We just have to keep believing that and proving that when it happens.
PHOTOS (Top) Traverse City St. Francis’ Wyatt Nausadis gets a hand up as Brandywine’s Nylen Goins pulls up for a jumper Thursday. (Middle) Brandywine’s Jaremiah Palmer (3) defends as the Gladiators’ John Hagelstein works for a shot.
We've got a long way to go before the stories of this season conclude with four MHSAA boys basketball champions crowned March 15 at Michigan State University's Breslin Center.
But the first week of the 2023-24 regular season gave us plenty to fill our first installment of “Breslin Bound” – our official tip-off to following more than 700 boys basketball teams through those final buzzers in East Lansing.
Week in Review
The countdown of last week’s five most intriguing results:
1. Flint Carman-Ainsworth 46, Flint Beecher 44 This was their first meeting since January 2022 and it provided a memorable start as the Cavaliers downed the reigning Division 3 champion.
2. Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice 75, Ferndale 66 These two both have several new contributors, but big things will be expected again as well as Brother Rice regularly contends in Division 1 and Ferndale is the reigning Division 2 champion.
3. Lansing Waverly 58, Detroit Martin Luther King 57 Waverly took major strides last season doubling its win total from 2021-22 and could be on the verge of more coming off this impressive victory at the Detroit Douglass Tip-Off Classic.
4. Norway 49, Munising 48 After the Knights gave Munising a tough final regular-season test last season, the Mustangs went on to claim the Division 4 championship. Norway will attempt to build off back-to-back 15-7 seasons starting with this win.
5. Wyoming Tri-unity Christian 64, Grandville Calvin Christian 44 These two combined to finish 46-9 a season ago, when Calvin defeated Tri-unity 63-42 in the regular-season finale (although the Defenders rebounded to finish Division 4 runners-up).
With an eye toward March, here are two teams in each division making sparks:
Rochester Adams (2-0) The Highlanders provided one of the best late-breaking stories of last season, reaching the Division 1 Quarterfinals after finishing fourth of five teams in a strong Oakland Activities Association Red that also featured North Farmington and Ferndale. The momentum started rolling again with wins last week over Milford 52-48 and Macomb L’Anse Creuse North 74-59.
Utica (2-0) Last season’s co-champion in the Macomb Area Conference Blue defeated MAC White reigning champion Port Huron Northern 68-49 in their opener and then Utica Eisenhower 56-41 at the MAC Champions of Champions event at Center Line. Utica improved to 15-7 last season after finishing 7-14 in 2021-22.
Dundee (2-0) After holding its own last season in a strong Lenawee County Athletic Association and finishing 13-12 overall, Dundee is hoping to turn a fast start last week into a climb up the standings with league play starting Friday. The Vikings doubled up East Jackson 52-26 and downed Milan 67-37 to start things off.
Goodrich (1-0) A 22-5 finish last season included a shared championship in the Flint Metro League Stars and a run to the Division 2 Quarterfinals, where the Martians fell by only five to eventual champion Ferndale. The second-to-last of those five losses came to Flint Beecher, 70-55, but Goodrich avenged it Friday with a 58-55 win over the Bucs.
Hillsdale (2-0) The Hornets finished just 4-19 last season, their second sub-.500 in a row. But the turnaround may be starting. Hillsdale is halfway toward last year’s win total after defeating Union City 53-45 and Jonesville 50-40 – and after losing to Union City 52-36 and Jonesville 39-23 last season, with Jonesville going on to finish 19-6.
Royal Oak Shrine Catholic (2-0) This is another team well on its way to bettering last season’s success by Jan. 1. After going 3-19 last winter, Shrine defeated Bloomfield Hills Roeper 48-30 and Utica Ford 55-52 in overtime last week. Ford had defeated the Knights 63-50 last season, and the 55 points Shrine scored this time would have been their second-highest total of 2022-23.
Adrian Lenawee Christian (2-0) Lenawee Christian finished last season on an 11-5 run after a 2-7 start, and might be rolling that right into this season as well after opening with a 74-60 win over Blissfield and 73-58 overtime victory over Hanover-Horton. Blissfield was among teams to deal the Cougars a loss during last season’s tough early stretch. Lenawee Christian is playing in the Tri-County Conference this winter after playing previously as an independent.
Wakefield-Marenisco (2-0) The Cardinals were a solid 13-10 last season, with the final week including a third win over Bessemer as they faced off in a District Semifinal, followed by a third loss to Ironwood in the District championship game. This season’s first week saw the same schedule, but a better outcome – Wakefield-Marenisco edged Bessemer 60-57 and this time defeated Ironwood 48-30. Ironwood was first and W-M third last season in the Copper Mountain Conference Porcupine Mountain.
Be on the lookout for results of these games coming up:
Tuesday – River Rouge (1-0) at Ferndale (1-1) – As noted above, Ferndale was last season’s Division 2 champion, and defeated Rouge 72-60 in last winter’s meeting.
Friday – Kalamazoo Central (0-0) at Battle Creek Central (0-0) – These longtime rivals finished first and third, respectively, in the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference East last season.
Saturday – Detroit Cass Tech (0-0) at Holt (1-0) – The Rams host the reigning Division 1 champion Technicians in the 4:30 p.m. game of the Moneyball Classic.
Saturday – Grand Rapids South Christian (0-0) vs. Rockford (1-0) at Calvin University – This will be the 10 a.m. opener of The Invite at Calvin University, with the reigning Division 2 runner-up Sailors taking on a Rockford team coming off an 18-win season.
Saturday – Grand Rapids Catholic Central (0-0) vs. Grand Rapids Northview (1-0) at Calvin University – This will cap off The Invite tipping approximately 7:35 p.m. and pitting last season’s Ottawa-Kent Conference Gold co-champion and White outright champion, respectively.
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PHOTOS (Top) A Westland John Glenn player gets to the basket during U-D Jesuit's season-opening 83-48 win over the Rockets. (Middle) Bath defenders surround a Charyl Stockwell player during the Sentinels' 63-55 victory. (Top photo by Olivia B. Photography; middle photo by Click by Christine McCallister.)