EAST LANSING – Morley-Stanwood coach Bob Raven said his team has been knocking on the Breslin Center door for a long time.
Clichés aside, the top-ranked Mohawks finally have busted right through.
After four Quarterfinal tries over the last seven seasons, Morley-Stanwood broke through on their fifth attempt earlier this week. And by knocking off reigning Class C champion St. Ignace 60-50 in Thursday’s Semifinal, the Mohawks have earned their first opportunity to play for an MHSAA championship.
"I think we have the experience this year for sure. All of our tournament games have been tough, and we weren't as nervous as we've been in past games," Huntey said. "It's definitely exciting to be here. But then again, you have to make sure you stay calm, do what you've always done and be prepared for the next game."
Morley-Stanwood (27-0) will face No. 9 Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett (23-4) in the Class C Final at 4 p.m. Saturday.
The Mohawks won their 11th straight league and seventh-straight District championships earlier this year. But Breslin was a foreign building, while St. Ignace was quite familiar with it after also finishing Class C runner-up in 2010.
“I think St. Ignace had the advantage having played down here,” Raven said. “But I wouldn’t trade this group of girls for anybody.”
All-state seniors Bailey Cairnduff and Alexis Huntey also led the Morley-Stanwood volleyball team to the Class C championship in the fall. They and senior guard Elyse Starck took over Thursday when it was needed most.
Cairnduff broke a 38-38 tie with a basket and free throw with 7:20 to play. She scored 10 of her game-high 28 points during the fourth quarter, and Starck had 10 of her 19 points over the final eight minutes as well as the two combined to score 20 of the team’s 22 points in the final period. Huntey scored only a point in the fourth quarter, but had four rebounds and two assists. She finished with 11 points and five assists.
The Mohawks made 60 percent of their shots from the floor during the second half.
“We definitely got beat tonight by a team that was on fire,” St. Ignace co-coach Dorene Ingalls said. “We went through some things for Morley, but we would’ve liked one more day to prepare. They caught us on that back-door cut way too much. But I thought we battled back.”
Sophomore guards Kelley Wright and Emily Hinsman both scored 12 points to lead the Saints (25-1). Senior Lauren Goldthorpe – who began playing basketball seriously only three seasons ago and earned all-state special mention this season – had 11 points, six rebounds and four steals.
St. Ignace presented Morley-Stanwood with the toughest press defense the Mohawks had seen this season. Now they’ll take on Miss Basketball Madison Ristovski and the team that fell to St. Ignace in last season’s Final.
“We’ll definitely have a great game on our hands. We’ll have to play hard and take care of the ball and do what we do best, and I think we’ll be all right,” Starck said. “It’s always been our dream to even be here. And to make the state Finals is absolutely a blessing for our team and our community.”
Click for the box score. Watch the game and both teams' postgame press conferences at MHSAA.tv.
PHOTO: Morley-Stanwood senior guard Elyse Starck takes a shot Thursday. She scored 19 points. (Photo courtesy of Terry McNamara Photography.)