EAST LANSING -- It came down to defense Thursday afternoon.
Suttons Bay held Bridgman to 20.6 percent shooting from the field in posting a 52-38 Class C semifinal basketball win at Michigan State's Breslin Center.
The Norsemen (25-1) will now face Melvindale Academy of Business and Technology (25-2) for the state title at noon Saturday. The Gators beat Flint Beecher 86-65 in Thursday's other semifinal.
Melvindale ABT won the Class C title a year ago, but had the title later stripped away for using in ineligible player.
With a win, Suttons Bay can complete the state championship cycle for the four public schools in Leelanau County. Leland (1942), Glen Lake (1959 and 1977) and Northport (1988) captured boys basketball titles previously.
"We're thrilled to be here," Suttons Bay coach Todd Hursey said. "Each step keeps getting better and better."
The Norsemen used an 18-0 first half run to take control in the semifinal. After Bridgman hit three consecutive 3-pointers to surge to a 13-5 lead midway through the first quarter, Suttons Bay held the Bees without a field goal for more than 11 minutes. That eight-point deficit turned into a six-point lead at half, 25-19.
"I can't say enough about how well we defended," Hursey said. "They scored (13) points on us early and then we went on a long stretch where we locked down on defense. That's what it's been all about on our tournament run. Our team defense was outstanding."
Junior forward Dwaun Anderson -- who led Suttons Bay with 16 points, seven rebounds, six blocks and five assists -- said the Norsemen cranked up the intensity after that slow start.
"It was a matter of getting in their face, making it uncomfortable for them to shoot," he said.
Bridgman, which was never able to get closer than six in the second half, finished 14 of 68 from the field, and just 6 of 41 beyond the 3-point arc.
"We didn't know much about Bridgman, but from what we heard they did like to shoot it (3s)," Hursey said. "Fortunately, we've played some teams this season that shoot a lot of 3s, so we're used to defending that way. I knew it would be a slow, grind it out game, but I think our presence inside had something to do with that, too. They felt that's how they could get us."
Bridgman coach Mike Miller said the Bees came into the game shooting 52 percent as a team, 39 percent from 3-point range.
"We're known for our shooting," Miller said. "We normally shoot extremely well. We're a little undersized, but we usually make up for it with our shooting. That was our lowest shooting percentage in at least three years. We sure picked the wrong night for that to happen.
"But they're long and their size bothered us defensively at times," he added. "Still, we got a lot of open looks."
The 41 3-point attempts was not out of character for Bridgman. The Bees came in averaging 28 attempts a game.
"We all walked off the court knowing we gave it our best," Bridgman guard Zane Copeland said. "They're a really good team. If we had shot better, it could have been a closer game, maybe a different game, but their long arms and big bodies really bothered us."
Suttons Bay struggled offensively, too. The Norsemen shot 30 percent from the field. They were 1-for-18 from beyond the arc.
Hursey said a key was that his team didn't get rattled after falling behind by eight points less than four minutes into the game.
"I just told them 32 minutes is a long time," Hursey said. "They're going to make some runs, but we're going to fight our way back in. We've been all about the defense. They ran some sets, got some good looks, but we knew that once we identified those shooters we were going to get some stops. And that led to good things on the offensive end."
Anderson had several electrifying dunks. He also used dribble penetration to break down the defense and set up his teammates.
"Anderson is the real deal," Miller said. "He's the best player we've played against. He does a lot of things. He's very versatile."
"He's really explosive," Copeland added. "Not much you can do against a guy who can jump and touch the ceiling."
Bridgman did try a box-and one defense on Anderson in the second half.
"A lot of things have been thrown at Dwaun this year," Hursey said. "He's such an unselfish player. It doesn't get to him if there's a few possessions where he doesn't touch the ball. Dwaun gets a lot of attention, but our other guys have been fantastic about picking up the slack when he's got two or three guys clamping down on him."
Chase Palmer finished with nine points for the Norsemen, all in the first quarter. He also had a team-high 10 rebounds. David Wheelock added seven points and seven rebounds and Noah Reyhl had six points and eight rebounds.
Michael Kamp scored 11 points and Conner Magro 10 for the Bees.
Suttons Bay has now rattled off 25 consecutive wins after losing its season opener.
"I thought we could make a tournament run, but I'll be honest I didn't see it going this far," Hursey said. "But these guys, since that opening loss, have been on a mission. They're focused, they know what they've got to do and since that opening game they've been perfect about taking care of business.
"I couldn't be prouder or happier for a group of guys to get this recognition and get to play on the ultimate stage for a high school basketball player."
The task Saturday won't be easy. The Norsemen watched Melvindale ABT in the first half Thursday.
"They're fast, really quick and they can shoot," Palmer said. "It's going to be a fun game."
"It will be tough," Anderson added. "But as long as we play as hard as we can we can stick with them."