BY DENNIS CHASE
---- — BUCKLEY — The Gaylord St. Mary girls will be attempting to win back-to-back regional basketball titles for the second time in school history.
Bear Lake will be seeking its first ever regional crown.
That's the scenario for Thursday when the two teams collide for the Class D regional title at Buckley.
Bear Lake (18-5) advanced with a 50-47 win over Manistee Catholic in the opener of a Tuesday doubleheader here. Gaylord St. Mary claimed the nightcap, scoring the game's first 19 points en route to a 60-28 win over Leland.
"We're looking forward to Thursday night's match-up," St. Mary coach Dan Smith said. "Bear Lake has a couple big girls that played very well tonight. We'll be focused on them for the next 48 hours."
Those two girls, Emileigh Ferguson and Hannah Harrington, accounted for 42 of Bear Lake's 50 points. Ferguson finished with 25, Harrington 17.
"They're a nice combination," Bear Lake coach Scott Brown said. "Hannah missed the first 10 games with a knee injury, but she's playing at 100 percent now."
Bear Lake and Manistee Catholic split a pair of games during the regular season with each team winning on its home court.
The Lakers led by seven in the opening minute of the third quarter, but Manistee Catholic rallied to take its lone lead in the second half, 33-32, on an Ashlyn Jansma 3-pointer. Ferguson and Harrington scored the next seven points to put Bear Lake back in charge.
Now, the Lakers are a win away from making history.
"It's (regional title) never been done at Bear Lake," Brown said. "We're working on making this the first one."
It will not be easy. St. Mary dominated from the start in sending Leland to the sidelines. The Snowbirds led 21-2 after the first quarter and 39-10 at half. It was 51-10 with 4:39 left in the third quarter when Smith pulled his starters.
"They're a good team, really good," Leland coach Megan Munoz said. "Fast, composed, patient, unselfish."
Junior guard Kari Borowiak led the Snowbirds with 19 points. Mary Spyhalski added 12.
"We came out and played hard," Borowiak said. "We don't take any team, any game, for granted. We wanted to come out and set the bar early."
Borowiak helped set that bar, scoring 17 in the first half.
"She's a special athlete," Smith said. "She has some quickness you don't see at this level very often. She's the quickest girl I've seen play at St. Mary's and we've had some pretty good teams over the past 25 years."
The Snowbirds held Leland to three field goals in the first half.
"We like to play high intensity, full-court pressure defense," Smith said. "We stay in man. We think we have the guards to do that against a lot of teams in Class D. We've done it all year. Our offense gets started off the defense."
Freshman Libby Munoz, sophomore Whitney Schaub and junior Caitlin McKee all scored seven points for Leland.
The Comets (10-14) were coming off a second consecutive district title even though Munoz returned just one starter from last year's squad. She started two freshmen Tuesday.
"I'm just glad our players, especially our freshmen, got to experience this (regional)," she said. "They got to see what they could look like if they spend time at it. We have some talent (coming up)."
Smith, meanwhile, was already plotting ways to stop Ferguson on Thursday.
"She had a lot of easy catches in the paint tonight," he said. "She loves to finish on the left side. If she gets it within four feet of the basket she's pretty good. We haven't seen how good she is 10 feet from the basket. We're going to plan on that. We're going to put lots of pressure on the basketball."