By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
EAST LANSING – Marine City Cardinal Mooney knew about point guard Sara Hansen, the Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart’s only senior. It had a plan for 6-foot-3 sophomore center Averi Gamble, and it worked well at the start of Thursday’s Class D Semifinal.
But Cardinals’ coach Susan Everhart admitted after that Irish junior guard Riley Terwilliger was not on her team’s radar before their trip to the Breslin Center.
She showed up in a hurry.
Terwilliger, who averaged a respectable 9.3 points per game entering the week, scored 19 and grabbed 10 rebounds and led the key run as Sacred Heart broke away for a 54-42 win and its first MHSAA Final berth since finishing Class D runner-up in 2008.
“I felt I needed to step up at some point in the game, and they were focused a lot on Sara and Averi,” Terwilliger said. “I just did what I had to do.”
Sacred Heart will face either Crystal Falls Forest Park or Athens in Saturday’s 10 a.m. Final. The Irish (21-5) have played only in that one championship game, and as such are seeking their first title.
But they’ve played in plenty of big games this winter, including against a few of the top teams in Class C. And coach Damon Brown could tell that experience paid off in one of the best wins in program history.
Sacred Heart trailed much of the first quarter and half of the second as Cardinal Mooney zoned to give Gamble double coverage and attacked the Irish with its trio of senior standouts.
But when Terwilliger caught fire, it swung everything in the Irish’s favor – including the Cardinals’ defense that had focused so much attention on the post.
She had 11 points, a rebound and a steal as Sacred Heart closed the first half on a 15-5 run to take a 27-20 lead into the break.
“We know going into games that Sara is number on one people’s scouting reports and Averi is number two. They often forget about Riley, but she finds a way to get open in zones,” Brown said. “She’s the ultimate utility player, and that’s what we need in order to be successful.”
She did so during the second half in part by opening things up for Gamble and Hansen. Gamble had eight of her 10 points after the break, and Hansen had eight of her 16 points during the last three minutes of the game.
Hansen hit a 3-pointer with 2:55 left to push Sacred Heart’s lead from four to seven points, and Terwilliger then made it nine after a steal and layup to effectively put the game away.
“We thought we had a great gameplan … and we got away from it,” Cardinal Mooney coach Susan Everhart said. “They got a little physical at times for us, and that’s where they got a jump on us.”
Whereas Sacred Heart has just one senior in Hansen, Cardinal Mooney followed a strong class of six to its first Semifinals since 2009. Guard Katie Theut had 19 points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots, and center Madison Southers added 13 points and 14 rebounds.
The Cardinals finished 19-6.
“Our girls made it however many years ago, and the guys made it four years ago, so it means a lot to me to be part of the program and get here,” Theut said. “I couldn’t ask to do it with a better group of girls. They’re all my best friends, and sharing this moment with them means the world to me.”
Hansen exited the game during the final minute, and appeared to take pause when the final buzzer sounded before she rushed into Terwilliger to celebrate the moment.
“The last 30 seconds, you just want to get it over. It’s my first State Finals ever, and it’s just really special,” Hansen said. “It’s kinda fun (being the only senior). Everybody looks up to you and stuff, but I don’t look at it as being the only senior. I’m really good friends with everyone, and it’s just really fun. They play really hard for me, and I play really hard for them.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Sacred Heart's Riley Terwilliger tries to drive around Cardinal Mooney's Madison Stouthers. (Middle) Megan Engish (10) puts up a shot over the Cardinals' Lauren Higgins.
HIGHLIGHTS: (1) Sara Hansen of Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart cans a 3-pointer at the first-quarter buzzer. Sacred Heart went on to beat Cardinal Mooney 52-42 in the Class D Semifinal. (2) Cardinal Mooney hits its own trey to end the third quarter. Katie Theut beats the buzzer to cut the Irish lead to 36-33.
STAMBAUGH — Danica Shamion has enjoyed plenty of success in track & field throughout her high school athletic career.
The West Iron County senior is also quite successful in basketball.
Shamion joined the 1,000-point club here Jan. 23 while scoring 34 in a 63-60 loss to Norway.
“That really felt good,” she said after last week’s 93-41 win over Bessemer on Senior Night. “I’m glad I was able to do that at home. Although, it would have been even better had we won that game.”
The Wykons scored five in double digits against the Speedgirls, led by senior Siena Stine with 20 points. Junior center Sidney Storti added 17 points, and Shamion finished with 16 points and 17 assists.
“Sidney is a real asset to our team,” Shamion said. “I can see the floor pretty well, and the other girls are doing a pretty good job getting open. This was our last home game. It definitely meant something to us.”
Shamion, an All-Upper Peninsula Division 1-3 first-team selection a year ago, twisted her ankle in a season-opening 47-40 triumph over Iron Mountain and missed the next three games.
West Iron was 1-3 going into the holiday break before getting back on track with a 42-28 victory over Kingsford on Jan. 2. That enabled the Wykons to improve to 4-3 before dropping six of their next seven games.
West Iron, which was 5-9 after dropping a 73-55 decision at Negaunee, had won four in a row prior to Thursday’s 46-44 loss at Calumet. But the Wykons bounced back with a 51-49 win over Ishpeming Westwood on Tuesday to get back to .500 at 10-10.
“We were trying to forge our identity and weren’t hitting our shots (earlier in the season),” Shamion said. “Although, we’ve been playing better defense lately. We’re pretty good one-on-one and usually play man-to-man. We try to run the floor and score in transition.
“Negaunee is probably the best team we’ve seen this year, although Ishpeming and Houghton are also very good and Calumet and Westwood are tough,” she added.
In track & field, Shamion set U.P. Division 2 Finals record in the 200-meter dash (26.34 seconds) and 400 (57.18) last season. She also won the 100 (12.79) and placed second in high jump at 4 feet, 10 inches. She is a three-time Finals champion in all three sprint races.
Shamion also made the all-U.P. Volleyball Dream Team in the fall.
She will continue on the track at Central Michigan University after she graduates from West Iron this spring.
“I didn’t know much about their program, but I was interested in what they had to offer,” she said. “The girls on the team are nice, which is part of the reason why I chose Central. It’s a relief to have that decided.”
John Vrancic has covered high school sports in the Upper Peninsula since joining the Escanaba Daily Press staff in 1985. He is known most prominently across the peninsula for his extensive coverage of cross country and track & field that frequently appears in newspapers from the Wisconsin border to Lake Huron. He received the James Trethewey Award for Distinguished Service in 2015 from the Upper Peninsula Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association.
PHOTOS (Top) West Iron’s Danica Shamion (24) blocks a shot during her team’s game at Ishpeming on Jan. 15. (Middle) Shamion maintains possession of the ball. (Photos by Cara Kamps.)