TRAVERSE CITY — Brooklyn Barber had only four points Friday.
But two of them were huge.
With Traverse City St. Francis clinging to a 29-25 lead over Elk Rapids — a lead that had shrunk from 14 points to four — the Gladiators ran a motion offense, taking over a minute and a half off the clock. That long play resulted in finding Barber all alone in the paint for an easy bucket and a much more comfortable 31-25 lead with 3:13 remaining.
St. Francis would hold on to win 39-30 to establish a one-game cushion in the Lake Michigan Conference standings.
“We were able to get someone open underneath the bucket,” Glads coach Mike Knudsen said. “That was a big play in the game.”
The Elks suffered their first LMC setback.
Julianna Phillips led the Gladiators with 12 points. Sarah Carney added nine points and nine rebounds before fouling out with 1:33 to go.
Megan Knudsen scored six points and had five steals and Anny Lyman dished out five assists.
“We started out very well,” Mike Knudsen said. “Defensively, we probably played some of the best basketball that we have all year. The first half, the girls were just outstanding defensively, which we were able to get some transition baskets and get a halftime lead.”
St. Francis (8-2, 5-0 LMC) led 23-10 at halftime.
“To keep that team to 10 points in a half is just a great effort by the girls,” Mike Knudsen said. “The whole team stood out defensively. We really focused all week on playing defense. And they did. I want to give Elk Rapids credit; they came out in the second half and got us out of rhythm and made a nice run in the third quarter to close the gap. In the fourth, the girls were able to settle down and get back on track and hold the lead.”
Elk Rapids (6-3, 5-1 LMC) — which hadn’t lost since Dec. 7 — was led by Paige Granger’s 12 points. Bridget Hintz had six.
“We started off way too slow,” Elks coach Dan Marquardt said. “We turned the ball over. For whatever reason, we didn’t play with a lot of energy at the beginning of the game. We dug ourselves a little hole. Give St. Francis credit, they played good D and took us out of some of the stuff we wanted to do.”
St. Francis led 27-11 early in the third quarter before the Elks went on a 14-2 run led by four points each from Hintz and Nicole Hill.
“We clawed back into that and had an opportunity late in the game,” Marquardt said. “We ended the game off with good effort, but we started off way too slow.”