TRAVERSE CITY — It was everything a regional game should be.
In the third meeting of the season between St. Francis and Boyne City on Monday, there were raucous crowds, big point swings and four lead changes in the closing minutes.
In the end, the Gladiators emerged with a 52-47 victory at Traverse City West to set up a Class C regional showdown with Clare on Wednesday.
St. Francis (22-2) trailed 41-31 with 2 minutes left in the third quarter, but closed the game on a 21-6 run for the win.
"Something just hit us," Glads sophomore Byron Bullough said. "There was no way we were going to let our road end. We're trying to make it to the Breslin Center this year. I thought we were destined to win this game."
"I told our kids if you find a state championship team, they have one of those someplace in the tournament run," St. Francis coach Keith Haske said. "(A game) where they eek it out or you do whatever you need to do to get over the hump. Hopefully that was ours tonight. I'm so happy for our kids for finding a way to win tonight."
Michael Jenkins helped the Gladiators get back into the game with a big fourth quarter with six of the team's 14 points.
"It was gut-check time," Haske said. "We couldn't put the ball in the basket to save our lives. But I thought Michael Jenkins gave us a huge lift when we just couldn't seem to put it in. He snuck around and got a couple of baskets."
"I wanted it really bad. We all did," Jenkins said. "We went out with a passion in the second half and were able to pull it out in the end."
Boyne City (17-7) led 41-36 going into the fourth quarter.
"When you get three or four terrible calls that don't go our way, that totally takes us out of our game," Ramblers coach Nick Redman said. "That totally changed the game. It was just unfortunate for our kids. They played a great game and deserved an opportunity to win it.
"I'm really proud of the way our kids played, ending the season playing really good basketball. I'm real proud of these seniors. They've done a great job turning this program around."
St. Francis got momentum when Byron Bullough hit a 3-pointer from the left corner to cut the lead to 43-40.
"We were in our runner offense and that's kind of designated for the 3-point shooter," Bullough said. "I came around the corner and shot it. It was pretty open, so I felt good about it as it was going in."
Then Devin Sheehy took over. He stole the ball from Boyne City and hit Bullough for a lay-up to cut it to 45-44. The St. Francis senior point guard then scored the team's final eight points for the win.
"Our star player, Sean (Sheldon), he got his fourth foul and was out of the game," Sheehy said. "Coach told me to take over the game. So that's what I was trying to do."
Sheehy's drive to the basket with 2:36 gave the Glads a 46-45 lead — their first since the closing seconds of the first quarter. The Ramblers answered with Jay Redman's bucket, but Sheehy came down the court quickly, hit a pull-up jumper for a 48-47 lead and St. Francis never trailed again.
During the fourth quarter, Boyne City opted to slow down the offense. One stretch saw the Ramblers take the clock down from 2:15 to 50 seconds.
"I was kind of surprised because they have a lot of scorers on that team," Sheehy said. "I thought they were going to attack the basket and try to get a foul on us. But they didn't. They stalled it and it worked out to our benefit."
Sheehy led St. Francis with 14 points while Bullough added 13.
For Boyne City, freshman Corey Redman had 11 of his 12 points in the first quarter.
"They shot the lights out in the first half," Haske said. "They young Redman kid in the corner, we cut him way too loose on that."
"He's been doing that all season for us," Redman said. "He's shown great poise all year."
Seniors Jay Redman and Keegan LaBlance each had 10 points.
In the first game of the night at TC West, Clare posted a 58-43 win over Lincoln-Alcona.
The Pioneers (22-1) led 25-24 at the half, but built a sizeable lead in the second half thanks to six 3-pointers.
Tanner Vida had 20 points for Clare while Shane Adkins scored 16 and Taylor Ardis added 10 points. Brock LaVergne had 17 points for the Tigers.
"They really are a good team," Haske said. "They like to push the ball up. Boyne hurt us early in the game off transition, so we've got to shore that up. They do a great job spreading the floor, their guards put the ball in the seams and they've got two really big kids that are good basketball players. That 6-8 kid is probably as athletic a big kid as I've seen this year. So it's going to be a great matchup. For a spectator, I think it's going to be an up-and-down game and a lot more high-scoring than tonight."
Glads to meet Clare for Class C regional title on Wednesday
TRAVERSE CITY — It was everything a regional game should be.
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