P-W shuts down Schoolcraft

Lady Eagles finish 20-6

PORTAGE — Schoolcraft girls’ basketball coach Doug Flynn gets enthusiastic when watching film and figuring out a way to beat the next opponent.
When reviewing the clips for Tuesday’s Class C state quarterfinals game against Pewamo-Westphalia, the Lady Eagles’ mentor saw none.
No. 6-ranked Pewamo-Westphalia was nearly flawless as they jumped out to a big early lead and coasted to a 43-19 win over Schoolcraft at Portage Northern’s Igloo.
Pewamo-Westphalia (23-2) advances to Thursday’s second state semifinal game at 2:50 p.m. against Maple City-Glen Lake (23-3) at the Breslin Center at Michigan State University in East Lansing.
Detroit Edison Public School Academy (18-5) meets Flint Hamady (19-5) in the other semifinal at 1 p.m. The finals are Saturday at 4 p.m.
Schoolcraft’s preseason motto was “everyone wants the harvest, but who is willing to plow?” It was Flynn’s grandfather’s favorite quote.
“We went over that quote again today before the game. I told the girls that to get to the state quarterfinals we did some plowing. We need to enjoy the harvest tonight because this is pretty special. I’m proud of our effort tonight,” Flynn said.
Schoolcraft (20-6) won a district championship and captured the first regional title in school history and was making its first state quarterfinals appearance.
“You could say this season was a lot like a NASCAR race. There are six laps left and you’re looking at the fuel gauge wondering if you have enough fuel to finish the race. With three laps to go in the tournament we kind’ve ran out of gas tonight,” Flynn said.
“Pewamo-Westphalia is a very good basketball team. I watched them on film and I usually start getting optimistic over a game plan to beat them. The more I watched I became discouraged because that’s a good team. There are no weaknesses. We didn’t shoot the ball well tonight, but I felt their defense had a lot to do with that.”
Schoolcraft fell into an early 9-1 deficit and trailed the Pirates 16-5 after one quarter.
The Lady Eagles only managed a half dozen shots in the opening period against the Pirates’ swarming defense. Madison Saxman’s layup was the only Lady Eagles’ field goal in the period. The other points came on two charity tosses by her freshman sister Gabi Saxman and another one by Madison.
Pewamo-Westphalia capped off the first and second quarters with three-pointers. Hannah Spitzley, a freshman and younger sister of junior all-state candidate Emily Spitzley, knocked down a triple at the end of the half that put the Pirates up 26-9 at halftime.
Schoolcraft hit a few shots in the second half but could never chip away at Pewamo-Westphalia’s lead enough to make a huge difference.
The Lady Eagles’ first field goal in the second half came with 1:18 left in the third on Kennedy Leighton’s layup. Leighton and Gabi Saxman each added two free throws for the Lady Eagles, who trailed by 20, 35-15 entering the fourth quarter.
Lydia Goble’s basket down in the post off Leighton’s assist late in the fourth quarter was the only field goal Schoolcraft could muster in the final eight minutes. The other two Lady Eagles’ points came on a pair of Leighton free throws.
Gabi Saxman, who is only a freshman, led Schoolcraft with 10 points. Leighton, only a junior, added six, while Goble, another junior, finished with four points and Madison Saxman added three points.
Schoolcraft made five field goals and shot 9-of-18 from the free-throw stripe.
Goble didn’t practice the past three days because of sickness.
Pewamo-Westphalia was led in scoring by Emily Spitzley with 10 points, while Hannah Spitzley finished with eight and Rachel Huhn added seven and Kenzie Hengesbach and Breanna Wirth scored four apiece and Kate Hengesbach had two points.
The Pirates made 16 field-goal attempts, including four three pointers, and made 7-of-16 free-throw attempts.
Schoolcraft loses seniors Amber Overley, Madison Saxman, Sophia Woodhams, Morgan Warnaar and Wynn Stitt.
“Each year when our season is done I clear out the locker room and talk with my seniors. This year’s seniors raised the bar for the program. We now know what we need to do to win a regional and a quarterfinal to get to that next step which is the Breslin Center,” Flynn said.
Pewamo-Westphalia coach Steve Ecklund said his team is trying to build a tradition just like the school has in boys’ basketball and football and boys’ and girls’ track and field.
“Our goal tonight was to control the glass and Schoolcraft didn’t have more than five offensive rebounds. We took away most everything that Schoolcraft wanted to do tonight. We pushed the tempo early and attacked the basket. We’re a young team but maturing,” Ecklund said.
Scott Hassinger can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 25 or sports@threeriversnews.com.

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