Frankfort Survives Tri-unity, Punches 1st State Finals Ticket

EAST LANSING – The late-game heroics continued for Frankfort on Thursday in the MHSAA Division 4 state semifinals at Michigan State’s Breslin Center.

Despite holding a 23-point edge midway through the third quarter and a 14-point lead after three, Frankfort found itself tied with Wyoming Tri-unity Christian at 43-43 with 20 seconds remaining in regulation on a Brady Titus layup.

With eight seconds left and the game still tied at 43-43, the Defenders fouled Ethan Ness, believing they were still trailing. Ness went to line, where he would split a pair, sinking the first of two attempts to propel Frankfort to a 44-43 win and its first state finals appearance.

Thursday’s contest was the second this week for Frankfort where free throws proved pivotal. In their quarterfinal game against Big Rapids Crossroads on Tuesday, the Panthers trailed 43-41 with 0.1 seconds remaining in regulation. Frankfort’s Jack Stefanski took to the free throw line for two shots. After connecting on the first, Stefanski’s second free throw rimmed out, but he was awarded another shot after a lane violation was called on Crossroads. Stefanski made the most of this second change and sent the game into overtime tied at 43-43.

Trailing 37-23 at the end of three quarters, Tri-unity (22-4) went on a 27-2 run Thursday, including opening the fourth on a 16-0 spurt, to take a 39-37 lead with 4:08 remaining in regulation.

Will Newbold led Frankfort with a game-high 16 points and seven rebounds while Stefanski had seven points and 13 rebounds.

Frankfort held 39-33 edge on the glass and shot 40 percent (14-of-34) from the floor.

The Panthers took control late in the opening quarter Thursday to take a 14-8 lead after the first eight minutes. Frankfort extended its lead to 26-12 by the half.

Despite losing six seniors a year ago, first-year head coach Dan Loney has the Panthers (21-5) rolling at the right time after dropping three of their final six regular-season games, including a 46-32 loss to Buckley in the regular-season finale.

Bennett Sinner led the Defenders Thursday with 16 points while Elijah Badgero tallied a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds.

Frankfort will now face 2018 Class D state champion and third-ranked Southfield Christian for the state championship Saturday. Southfield Christian (20-6) rolled past Dollar Bay (21-5) 55-28 in Thursday’s first semifinal. The Eagles have won four state titles since 2012 and met Frankfort in the 2014 Class D semifinals, winning 97-68.

Saturday’s game tips off at 10 a.m.

Categories: Boys Basketball