ESCANABA - Senior forward Kelley Wright drew a hot hand early Thursday night, helping the St. Ignace girls cruise to an 81-58 basketball triumph over the L'Anse Purple Hornets in an MHSAA Class C regional final at Escanaba High School.
Wright hit 17 points, including five 3-point shots, in the first quarter as the Saints built a 27-14 advantage.
"That was a fantastic display of basketball," said St. Ignace coach Dorene Ingalls. "Kelley got some good looks at the basket, and she just ignited us. That's what we needed to do against their zone."
This marked the fifth straight regional title for the Saints, who captured the Class D state title a year ago and were Class C state champions in 2011.
St. Ignace (22-2) advances to the Class C state quarterfinal at Gaylord where it will face McBain (21-2) Tuesday at 7 p.m.
The Ramblers copped the regional title at Sanford-Meridian Thursday in a 61-44 conquest of Beaverton.
St. Ignance 81, L'Anse 58
L'Anse 14 4 23 17 - 58
St. Ignace 27 18 22 14 - 81
L'Anse - Etelamaki 8, Swanson 25, Rajala 4, Hulkonen 2, Hendrickson 2, Norback 2, Ross 9, Magaraggia 2, Hockstein 2, Lister 2. FT: 8-15; F: 15; Fouled out: Rajala; 3-point field goals: Swanson 3, Ross.
St. Ignace - Ostman 15, LaVake 8, Wright 29, Brown 3, Hinsman 18, Sarah Smith 8. FT: 12-19; F: 18; Fouled out: Wright; 3-point field goals: Wright 6, Ostman.
Wright scored the first eight points at Esky, getting the Saints on the board with layup just 10 seconds into this match-up.
She added a jump shot from top of the key and another trifecta from the left corner, putting St. Ignace up 8-0 just 2 1/2 minutes into the contest. She finished with 29 points and nine steals before fouling out with 5:10 left in the fourth frame.
"That's what our coaches wanted us to do," said St. Ignace senior forward Emily Hinsman, who added 18 points and six assists. "That helped pump up our fans. Then, it was just a matter of keeping our intensity."
After being outscored 18-4 in the second stanza, L'Anse started the third with a 10-3 run.
Senior point guard Madi Swanson, who will play ball at Lake Superior State University next season, drained a 20-foot jumper from the right wing to trim the Hornets' deficit to 48-28 less than 2 1/2 minutes into the period.
The Saints, however, never allowed L'Anse to get any closer.
"They're very impressive," L'Anse coach Scott Lloyd said of the Saints. "Their defense creates offense and it doesn't rest. I don't really see any weaknesses in their team. They're a very hard team to defend against. We struggled with rebounding. When you give up second chance shots to a team like that, this is the kind of score you're going to end up with."
Sophomore forward Abbey Ostman finished with 15 points for the Saints, who committed 20 turnovers.
"Abbey really stepped up in the second half, and Emily (Hinsman) is a solid ballplayer who steps up in big games," said Ingalls. "Sarah Smith was able to guard three to four people inside and came up with some big steals. The girls were high energy tonight. I felt L'Anse was outstanding in the second half. The Swanson girl was able to get to the basket. She's definitely a skilled player."
Hinsman had similar thoughts on Swanson's performance.
"She didn't give up and I give her props for that," said Hinsman. "Her drive and the way she helps her teammates is what impressed me."
Swanson finished with 25 points, including 22 in the second half. The Hornets finished with 27 turnovers against St. Ignace's full-court and half-court pressure defense.
"Madi struggled in the first half, but had an excellent second half," said Lloyd. "We wanted to play zone, but in hindsight I wish we would have played more man. Maybe would could have slowed them down a little. Although, they probably would have adjusted. This has been a big learning curve for us. We're starting to get a winning program. We have a lot of good players coming up from our younger programs."