Nouvel Takes Next Step as Class C Champ

March 15, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – Saginaw Nouvel holds daily school Mass in its gymnasium, allowing Rachel McInerney and her teammates to reflect on a few things – including photos of the Panthers’ 2006 and 2008 MHSAA championship teams staring back at them.

“And every day in practice, we’d say our picture is going to be up there no matter what,” McInerney said.

In her final opportunity Saturday, Nouvel’s 6-foot-2 senior center more than did her part to make that true.

With lingering regrets from last season’s Class C championship game defeat to Manchester, McInerney seemed to take them out on St. Ignace with one of the most impressive statistical performances in MHSAA Finals history – 22 points, 23 rebounds and five blocked shots – as the Panthers broke away for a 62-40 win and the their third title.

“I just left it all the floor. I wanted to remember this game as a great thing,” McInerney said on the topic of redemption. “We more than achieved that.”

But it wasn’t as simple as a reigning runner-up returning to take the final step.

Nouvel entered this tournament ranked only No. 10 and after assistant Mary Jo Skiendziel was promoted to head coach with only two games left in the regular season.

But she couldn’t be more familiar. Skiendziel also is a Nouvel graduate and coached the freshmen basketball team for six seasons in addition to helping the varsity at the start of this winter. And she inherited some key leaders, including three who started in the 2013 Final.

“From the beginning, we knew our team would stick together through anything,” said Nouvel sophomore guard Laurel Jacqmain, one of the other two returning starters. “Our goal was to get back here, and we knew we could with each other. That’s what we were going to do.”

After handing Gobles its only loss of the season in Thursday’s Semifinal, the Panthers faced an even more imposing obstacle in St. Ignace – last season’s champion in Class D, which brought four starters back this weekend and was playing in its third championship game in four seasons.

That’s what made how Nouvel won a little shocking. Aside from 4-2 after the first minute, the Panthers never trailed – and led by as many as 26 after holding a one-point advantage at halftime.

“We came out in the second half on fire, and that’s exactly what we’ve done all season,” Skiendziel said, the championship trophy sitting beside her. “Nothing’s different except we have new wood to take home.”

McInerney also did her part as a leader, making sure her teammates soaked in the value of the moment during the game and reminding them to have fun. “Just because I experienced it last year, I know what it’s like to let it go by. I did not have fun last year,” McInerney said.

And her 23 rebounds were the third most in an MHSAA Final, fewer than only Kelly Rose’s 25 for St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic in the 1988 Class C championship game and Paula McGee’s 24 for Flint Northern in the 1979 Class A Final.

“She just intimidates,” St. Ignace coach Dorene Ingalls said. “She had maybe struggled a little bit, didn’t score like she usually does in the Semi (three points). But we knew what she was capable of, and she showed it today.”

McInerney had only four of her points during the 24-7 third-quarter run, but did grab six rebounds and block four shots during that 8-minute span. Jacqmain did most of the offensive damage during the period, scoring 13 of her game-high 23 points.

Junior guard Margo Brown scored a team-high 16 points for St. Ignace, and with sophomore center Abbey Ostman will attempt to lead the Saints back to Breslin for the sixth straight season in 2015. Senior Kelley Wright, who set an MHSAA record playing in her 102nd varsity win Thursday, had eight points and four steals in her final high school game.

“I don’t take losing very well, and I don’t know how long it will be before I take a look at these last two films,” Ingalls said. “But I wouldn’t want to be up here with another group of kids. It’s not the stuff on the floor. Everyone who meets them, gets to know them when we visit people, they become Saints fans for life. They wear their uniforms from the inside out.”

Click for a full box score and video from the press conference

PHOTOS: (Top) Saginaw Nouvel’s Rachel McInerney (30) looks for an open teammate as St. Ignace’s Margo Brown defends. (Middle) Brown looks to drive against Nouvel’s Lindsay Stroebel on Saturday.

HIGHLIGHTS: (1) Lindsay Stroebel of Saginaw Nouvel makes a steal with time running out in the first quarter and beats the buzzer to give her team a 13-9 lead against St. Ignace. (2) Margo Brown led St. Ignace with 16 points. Here she cans a 3-pointer late in the first half to pull her team to within a point of the lead.

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.