By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
EAST LANSING – The numbers may not lie, as the saying goes. But sometimes they tell an unexpected story.
Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central entered Thursday’s Class C Semifinal undefeated, and then made 52 percent of its shots from the floor.
But Maple City Glen Lake will play for its first MHSAA boys basketball championship since 1977 thanks to one other number in particular – the powerful 3.
The Lakers made 10 3-pointers – and three players combined to score all of their points – as they handed St. Mary its first and only loss, 62-56 at the Breslin Center.
The numbers nearly caught up to Glen Lake. After leading by as many as 13, the Lakers saw their advantage dwindle to two with two minutes to play. But junior guard Xander Okerlund scored four of his game-high 23 points to close out the historic victory.
“The way we looked at it is (it’s) another good basketball team that knows what they’re doing,” Glen Lake senior forward Cade Peterson said. “We expected coming into the game that they were going to make their runs. We were going to make our runs. What I love about this team is just we bounce back no matter what. Even after our two (regular-season) losses to a really good Buckley team, we come back, we just keep on going. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing.”
Glen Lake (24-2) earned its first championship game appearance since 1996 and will take on Detroit Edison in Saturday’s 4:30 p.m. Final.
The Lakers’ first four baskets Thursday were 3-pointers. They made 10 of 22 from beyond the arc – 46 percent of their tries, better than the 42 percent they shot from the field overall.
“I thought we did a nice job of not forcing them. We didn’t want to come out and start firing them,” Glen Lake coach Rich Ruelas said of the long-range shots. “Our big thing is inside-out – let’s get touches inside, and once they collapse, let’s open it up. We have guys who can absolutely knock them down … but we wanted to really make that defense work.
“We didn’t always take the greatest shots. But for the most part, we did.”
Monroe St. Mary (25-1) also plays inside-out, and had plenty of success inside. Senior 6-foot-8 forward C.J. Haut made 7 of 12 shots for 15 points as St. Mary scored 32 total in the paint, compared to Glen Lake’s 12.
Junior guard Hunter Kegley added 13 points, and senior guard Mitchell Sherrard and junior forward Tyler Welch both had 10 points.
But the Falcons had a hard time containing Glen Lake’s big three. In addition to Okerlund’s 23 points, Peterson finished with 20 and sophomore guard Reese Hazelton had 19.
The 62 points were the second-most St. Mary had given up this season – opponents had averaged only 40.4 points per game against the Falcons heading into this weekend.
“We got a lot of good shots. I just felt like early we gave up too many 3s,” St. Mary coach Randy Windham said. “We let them be a little comfortable. I just felt that they settled in, and when teams settle in and get their feet under them – our whole thing is to make them uncomfortable, get them off their spot.”
This was St. Mary’s second Semifinal – its first was in 2013 – and the Falcons took the next step after falling in the Quarterfinal a year ago.
“This final game doesn’t define us as people. We still had a really rewarding season,” Haut said. “We were 25-0 coming into this game, and we were undefeated in our league. We were ranked number one in the state for a long time. I don’t think this game has anything to do with the success of our season. We were still very successful.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Maple City Glen Lake’s Reece Hazelton launches a 3-pointer Thursday at the Breslin Center. (Middle) Monroe St. Mary’s Mitchell Sherrard works to get a shot around Glen Lake’s Cade Peterson.