EAST LANSING - St. Ignace expects to return to Class C next season in basketball, but its one year at Class D produced the Saints' fourth state title since 1999 and ended Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes' chance at four straight crowns.
Surviving 21 turnovers through three quarters, the nightmare unfolded in the final eight minutes for Lakes (21-5) at the Breslin Center in the 59-44 loss.
"The final eight minutes we knew were going to have to force some turnovers," said Lakes coach Steve Robak. "I thought we were getting tired and we backed off the full-court press. Once we got behind they're such a good team at taking care of the ball. They're matchup is difficult to read and it gave us problems."
St. Ignace improved to 27-0 by outscoring Lakes, 21-6, in the fourth quarter, including the first nine points. Twenty-seven also was the number of turnovers the Lakers committed.
"We knew they were a great team with three straight state titles, but this is the first undefeated season we've had so we had some things we were shooting for," said Saints coach Dorene Ingalls. "At halftime, we had a little talk about hustle and heart."
The Saints' winning rally started with a basket in the lane by Sarah Cullip, who finished with 16 points. Margo Brown then hit a triple, followed by an offensive rebound and basket by Cullip for a 45-38 lead.
"In the huddle, we talked about getting the loose balls and being aggressive and diving on the floor and picking up the intensity on defense which led to our offense," said Cullip.
A Lakes turnover produced a layup by Emily Hinsman (20 points) and the Saints found themselves up nine.
A bank shot three by Lexie Robak, who scored a game-high 25 points, kept the Lakers hopes alive with 4:06 to play.
"I wanted to come out and play well and have fun, and I did that," said Robak.
Unable to shake the Saints, Lakes was entrenched in a 38-38 slugfest by the end of three.
After struggling in the semifinals, Cullip responded with eight points in the first quarter to give the Saints a 15-12 lead with the St. Ignace forcing nine turnovers. Robak and Ava Doetsch combined for consecutive threes to give the Lakers a one-point lead.
St. Ignace tied the game at 23, but Robak's 14 first-half points gave the Lakers a 28-23 halftime lead.
"Obviously we wanted to win the game, but it's difficult being sad for long when you look at the fact we made it here four straight times and won three," said Steve Robak. "I couldn't be more proud of this group. We'll celebrate not only this season but the four-year run when we get back home. This group's had a tremendous run and I couldn't be more proud."
Contact Perry A. Farrell: 313-222-2555 or firstname.lastname@example.org.