By Greg Gielczyk
The Orioles extended their winning streak to six straight and improved to 19-5 with a 34-31 win over Negaunee to win their first regional title in 14 years.
Frankenmuth’s regional title drought was even longer. The last time the Eagles had advanced to the quarterfinals was 26 years ago. They ended it with a 42-28 trouncing of Saginaw Swan Valley last week.
It extended the Eagles’ winning streak to four straight games, and improved their record to 22-2.
Mia McLaughlin, a sophomore guard, leads the Eagles with a 15 points, five rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots a game.
Four-year starter Emma Kerkau is averaging 13 points and 4.9 rebounds per game.
Zoey Persails, a senior, is averaging 12.8 points, five rebounds and two blocked shots a game and freshman point guard Claire Conzelmann averages seven points a game, close to 5.5 assists and four steals a game.
Frankenmuth plays a matchup zone, which is rather unsual. But it doesn’t cause undo concern for the Orioles.
“Offensively, we just have to be patient against the zone. Make passes to make passes against the zone, ” said Ludington head coach Warrne Stowe. “We’re going to have opportunities against their zone to win one-on-one matchups, and we’re just going to need to do that to be successful.”
“We just have to really focus on guarding our yard. If we can limit some of their penetration, that’s going to help s guard their shooters.”
Frankenmuth, like Ludington, hangs its hat on its defense.
“Defense can turn into offense, and I think we’ve made that known in our games,” said Orioles senior Abi Bandstra before Sunday’s practice, “by applying a lot of pressure and forcing turnovers, not letting teams score on us and then capitalizing on our opportunities to score.
“It just gets us motivated. On the defensive end when we’re getting those steals, getting those turnovers, that’s what gets us excited for that next possession of offense.
“You have full control over your defense. Defense, it’s your energy, it’s your effort. Offense, you control your passes and that sort of thing, but you don’t have control of the ball going in the hoop.”
Before the season, Ludington talked about the strengths it had on offense.
One of those strengths was height.
“We just look at those height matchups, and we definitely have some really strong forwards,” Bandstra added. “So, we definitely try to push it in and get it in to them.”
Ludington senior RyAnn Rohrer felt the competition the Orioles faced down in Detroit for a holiday tournament went a long way in preparing them for the post-season.
“I think it was just a totally different ball game,” said Rohrer. “I feel like most of the girls hadn’t seen that. They just put pressure on you 24/7.
“They’re just also hitting their shots all the time. It’s frustrating to be part of it, but at the same time you realize that you’re learning from it, and getting better.
“We know what we can handle, and what we’re capable of doing.”
Playing in the quarterfinals is not a regular thing for the Orioles girls basketball program, this year being the first time since 2008, and only the sixth time in the school’s history.
“One thing I’m lucky to have with these girls is they are hard workers,” Stowe said.
“They know who they are. They know their identity, and they’re not afraid to put the work in. When you work as hard as they do, you give yourself a shot every single game.”