Calumet Steps Closer to Class C Throne

March 19, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor 

EAST LANSING – Clara Loukus was all jitters when Thursday’s first Class C Semifinal tipped off at the Breslin Center. And her coach Jeff Twardzik knew it.

But he also could tell from the way she launched her 3-point shot with three minutes to play that it would find the bottom of the net – and more importantly, that she was ready to carry the Copper Kings to their first MHSAA championship game. 

Loukus scored one third of Calumet’s points and spearheaded a defensive effort that stopped undefeated Laingsburg cold over the final seven minutes of the fourth quarter.

And the Copper Kings indeed moved on, edging the top-ranked Wolfpack 30-26 to advance to Saturday’s 4 p.m. Final against Flint Hamady.

“Last night I couldn’t sleep. ... The first half I was riled up,” Loukus said. “The second half came, and I calmed myself down, got my got my rhythm. I knew I had my whole team behind me, and I had to do this for them.” 

Stingy defense played a part in both teams advancing to the Semifinals this season for the first time. Laingsburg (26-1) gave up only 25.7 points per game entering Thursday, while Calumet (23-2) wasn’t far behind that pace, allowing 32.5.

And that certainly played out from the opening tip. Laingsburg did make 50 percent of its shots during the first half – but launched only 10 times. Calumet shot 10 percent better during the second half than the first – but only 39 percent from the floor over the final two quarters and 32 percent for the game. 

Although the Wolfpack made only two of 11 shots during the third quarter, the Copper Kings still trailed 23-21 when a Laingsburg turnover at 7:14 of the fourth started a run that will be among highlights of Calumet’s historic trip downstate.

The Copper Kings earned that turnover with their fullcourt press, and tied the score on junior Leah Kiilunen’s basket with 6:26 to play. Calumet then forced another turnover, and then another when Loukus gathered a steal with 5:06 on the clock. 

The teams traded missed shots until senior Alexis Rowe dropped in a layup with 4:22 to play to give the Copper Kings a 25-23 lead. Another miss and turnover set up Loukus for her game-deciding 3-pointer with 3:02 to play.

“She’s that heartbeat that never quits,” Twardzik said. “You never quite now when it’s going to come, but that 3-poiner, I could tell when it left her hands. The kids were nervous coming in, understandably. But I could tell she calmed down, and she took that shot in rhythm.” 

Laingsburg did score its first and only basket of the final period with 1:26 to play to pull within 28-26. But the Wolfpack turned the ball over twice more, the second time on a pass into the middle of the lane that Loukus intercepted. She was fouled and made both free throw attempts with nine seconds to play.

“I turned to my assistant and I said, ‘She’s going to make these two,’” Twardzik said. “That’s the way she’s built.” 

Loukas finished with 10 points and five steals, and Rowe added seven points. Junior 6-foot-2 center Janie Torola came off the bench and became an obstacle in the middle playing all but two minutes of the second half, and she grabbed nine rebounds and blocked three shots to go with seven points.

Freshman Sophie Wilsey led Laingsburg with eight points and four rebounds. 

"For the last four or five games, we've struggled a little bit with our offense. We've been managing to score in the 30s or 40 range, and with our defense that typically gives us the opportunity to win," Laingsburg coach Doug Hurst said. "Tonight it was a credit to their defense as well, a lot of it to their defense, actually. … They're big, they're long, and that kinda changed things a little bit."

Calumet entered the tournament unranked, and traveled 500 miles to East Lansing after making their first Quarterfinal appearance Tuesday since 1977. 

“This is everybody’s dream, to get here. And when you step into the first practice, you talk to the kids; why not dream big?” Twardzik said. “I truly believed in this group of kids. I’ve had an opportunity to be a part since they were very young, (because) my daughter (Ellen) is a senior.

“In my wildest dreams, did I have this dream? Yes. Did I believe it could be true? Absolutely.” 

“We come from a small town. Not a lot of people know about you,” Rowe added. “I remember yesterday, coming down in the gym, everybody’s eyes were wide open. Friday we’ve just got to go back to the mental (preparation), and Saturday just wake up and play our game and be ready.”

Click for the full box score and video of the press conference.

PHOTOS: (Top) Calumet's Abby Bjorn (44) works to get around Laingsburg's Sara Hurst on Thursday. (Middle) The Copper Kings' Alexis Rowe goes up for a shot while Julia Angst (5) works for a stop.

Lansing Catholic Closes Season With Memorable Victory Close to Home

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

March 18, 2023

EAST LANSING – The Lansing Catholic girls basketball team took a short drive to end a long wait.

Playing just three miles from their high school, the Cougars defeated Frankenmuth 43-29 Saturday at the Breslin Center to win the MHSAA Division 2 Final. It was the first Finals title for the program since 1995.

“It felt like homecourt advantage a little bit,” Lansing Catholic senior guard Hannah Pricco said. “Our bus trip wasn’t super long. It just kind of felt like we were coming to our own court.”

The Cougars treated it that way, dominating from the beginning of the matchup in their first Finals trip since that 1995 title. They scored the game’s first 11 points and never looked back.

The Cougars’ Anna Richards (10) attempts to get a shot up over Frankenmuth’s Lexi Boyke.“This is, as you can imagine, extremely surreal,” Lansing Catholic coach Kacee Reid said. “You’re going through literally every emotion on the bench, especially in a game like that. Frankenmuth is making such a great comeback, and we knew they were going to fight to the end. To go through the anger and sadness and happiness, and now it’s over and we’ve won it. It’s just been a rollercoaster of emotions, and I can’t describe the pride I have in these girls.”

It was the second meeting between the two teams, with Lansing Catholic taking the first 74-42 on Feb. 2. But Reid wasn’t going to let her team come in overconfident.

“They didn’t get here by accident,” Reid said. “They’re in the state championship because they’re playing their best ball of the year. We played them a month and a half ago. … We’re a totally different team, and we knew they were a totally different team. We knew they had been playing some really good basketball, and it didn’t matter at all what that first outcome was. We knew this was going to be a battle.”

Lansing Catholic (24-5) never trailed, and led by as many as 17 points in the third quarter. Leah Richards led the Cougars with 16 points and nine rebounds, while Anna Richards had 14 points. Gabby Halliwill added seven.

The Cougars were spurred by their defense throughout, holding Frankenmuth to 9 of 36 shooting from the field and forcing 13 turnovers.

“For us, defensively, we had to switch it up,” Reid said. “We had to keep switching up between man and zone. They were making adjustments and we couldn’t really sit in one thing for too long; they got comfortable. That’s a credit to their coaching staff always making adjustments. We had to continue to switch things up defensively and try to hopefully make their shooters second-guess their shot, or maybe not know where we were coming from.”

Frankenmuth (25-3) didn’t go away, despite trailing by double digits for the majority of the game. 

That was helped by Lansing Catholic shooting 1 of 11 from the field in the third quarter, and going scoreless for the final 5:26 of the frame.

Tessa Roe (12) works to get past Clare Conzelmann and to the basket.The Eagles cut the lead to seven with 2:45 to play on a steal and layup from Clare Conzelmann, but never got closer.

“There was always belief no matter what detriment we got ourselves in,” Frankenmuth senior Lexi Boyke said. “I wouldn’t want to choose any other girls to play with and be in with at that point. I think we fought back and really prided ourselves on, ‘We can still do it.’ We didn’t stop fighting until the end.”

Lansing Catholic always figured Frankenmuth would make a run to get into the game, but was ready when it came.

“We knew they were going to make runs, we knew we weren’t going to hold them to seven points the whole game,” Anna Richards said. “We knew in the third quarter they were going to score, so we just had to stay composed, work the ball around on offense to get the good shots that we wanted.”

Boyke, who scored Frankenmuth’s first 10 points and was its only scorer well into the third quarter, finished with 16. She also reached 1,000 career points in the game, and had six rebounds, while Izzy Bernthal had seven.

Frankenmuth was making its first Finals appearance since winning the Class C title in 1996, one year after Lansing Catholic. 

“That’s a really good Lansing Catholic team, and you’ve seen that from their postseason run and beating an undefeated West Catholic team, and tonight finishing their season off with a state championship. So, congratulations to them,” Frankenmuth coach Joe Jacobs said. “I’m super proud of our kids. They didn’t quit tonight. They could have. … Fun experience, one that we want to treasure forever, but the motivation to come back again is here after tonight’s loss.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Lansing Catholic celebrates its Division 2 championship Saturday night at Breslin Center. (Middle) The Cougars’ Anna Richards (10) attempts to get a shot up over Frankenmuth’s Lexi Boyke. (Below) Tessa Roe (12) works to get past Clare Conzelmann and to the basket.