GAYLORD — Ludington’s girls basketball team kept the beat going Thursday night with a tight 34-31 victory over Negaunee to capture a MHSAA Division 2 regional championship in Gaylord.

But it was a hard fought battle, as neither team led by more than four points throughout the game and the Orioles trailed by one going into the fourth quarter.

It took another great defensive effort by the Orioles to secure the win, especially in the second half, when they outscored the Miners, 20-14.

“We were down most of the game, and we took a lead late in the game,” said Ludington head coach Warren Stowe. “It kind of went back and forth.

“Up three with about 37 seconds left, we had to make a defensive stand. That’s where we want to be. As a program, that’s what we do.”

Ludington trailed, 11-10 at the end of the first quarter and then was outscored by the Miners, 6-4 in the second period to go into the half with a 17-14 deficit.

The Orioles got the jump on the Miners in the third quarter, but by only two, 9-7 and still was looking at a one-point deficit, 24-23 heading into the fourth quarter.

Negaunee gave the Orioles a scare when it launched a 3-point shot as time expired, but it was an air ball and the celebration began. The Orioles had an 11-7 scoring edge in the final eight minutes.

It is the first regional championship for the Orioles girls basketball program in about 17 years.

“That’s who we are,” Stowe said. “It’s our DNA. I just think they all emptied their cup, and we got amazing defense from our whole group.

“We had 14 girls that were in it from beginning to end. They never wavered. I was very proud of them.”

Keelyn Laird scored 12 points to pace Ludington. RyAnn Rohrer contributed seven points and Emma Mckinley added five. The Orioles were 5 of 5 at the free throw line.

Ludington improved to 19-5 with its sixth straight win. The Orioles advance to the quarterfinal against Frankenmuth at Cadillac on Tuesday. Tipoff is at 7 p.m.