2017-03-23 / Sports

Engadine Eagles Girls Delight Fans With Quarterfinals Win Over Crystal Falls

By Stephen King

The Engadine Eagles girls won 44-41 over the Crystal Falls Forest Park Trojans in the quarterfinal game of the Class D Regional basketball tournament in Negaunee Tuesday, March 14. The Eagles earned the right to play in Lansing, at the renowned Breslin Center, home of the Michigan State Spartans, a dream of every high school basketball player in the state.

Going in Tuesday night, the Eagles were facing a team that had been ranked eighth in the state. The game began with the Trojans hitting a quick deuce, matched almost immediately by Keely Fuller also hitting for two. The Trojans’ Becky Kolanda nailed a three point basket and Forest Park was up 5-2. It became obvious that this would be a very low scoring game. Both teams have excellent defenses and both were on their game, with a trip downstate on the line. After the first quarter, the Eagles were up 9-8. The points on the board did not indicate how exciting this game really was. With scores of fans from both teams in attendance, each basket and each block brought huge ovations.

By the end of the first half, the Eagles were up 25-20. But nobody thought the game was yet theirs. With an excellent shooting team like the Trojans, the Eagles were only two shots away from being behind and they were facing another regional champion.

In the third quarter, the Eagles were using a man-to-man defense that was working well. They were controlling the pace and limiting the good looks. Even so, the Trojans did have some success on the outside shots and they were closing the lead. The Trojans were working a threequarter court press that was also giving the Eagles some trouble.

But, by the end of the third period, the Eagles were up 36-25 and in a defensive battle like this, that lead seamed insurmountable. But, as the game progressed, it became obvious that this game was going to go right to the last buzzer. With their season now only eight minutes from ending, the Trojans went into desperation mode, and they started to close the gap.

Slowly, the Trojans got themselves back into the game. With some success from their outside shooters, with about a minute and one-half left, they were now only down by four points, down 38-34. Then, it was the Eagles’ Aubrey Simmons inside with the short shot for two. But back came the Trojans and a quick four points got them back within two. Then Allison Margherio hit a long two and the Ea- gles were up 42-38. Hannah Cross swished a three and the Trojans were within a point. Olivia Vaughn made one of her patented dribble drives, drew the foul, and drained both shots. There was still about 15 seconds on the clock. The Trojans were only a three-pointer away from sending this game to overtime. On their possession, the Eagles challenged from the inbounds pass, eating up the clock. Keeping close and not allowing an open shot, they worked their defense. With the clock heading toward zero, the Trojans got up one last desperation three-point shot. It hit the rims, circled, and came down into Eagles hands. The buzzer sounded and the crowd erupted. The Eagles were the quarterfinal champions and were on their way to Lansing.

Eagles Coach Roger French said, “What an exciting time for us. Forest Park is an excellent shooting team and the crash the defensive boards really well. We were up at halftime, but we gave them too many second shots. Their rebounds were going 10 to 15 feet out and they were beating us to the loose balls. But, Aubrey Simmons came up big for us again tonight. Olivia Vaughn also had an excellent game. I’m so proud to be part of this team and be able to represent the U.P. down in Lansing.”

Olivia Vaughn said, “This is like a dream. I am so excited I cannot even describe how this feels. I am so proud of this team and how we played tonight. Our defense really came through for us. Forest Park is an excellent team and we were able to hold them to only 41 points. For a senior, this is the kind of season you dream about. Our team goal this year was to make the regional final. Now, we’re on our way to Lansing. I want to thank everyone for their support. We really appreciate it.”

Engadine statistics: Olivia Vaughn 13 points, Aubrey Simmons 12, Sophia Vaughn nine, Allison Margherio four, Keely Fuller four. Free throws: 4-9. Fouls: 13. 3-point field goals: Olivia Vaughn one, Sophia Vaughn one.

Crystal Falls Forest Park statistics: Abby Nyland 14 points, Hannah Cross 14, Genna Grabowski six, Hanna Logan four, Becky Kolenda three. Fouls: 11. 3-point field goals: five.

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