MAPLE CITY — A season that’s had its highs and lows is suddenly trending upward for the St. Francis Gladiators.
For the second night in a row, St. Francis used a fourth quarter surge to post a key non-league road win, this one 71-58 over Glen Lake on Tuesday.
Senior Noah Phillips scored 17 of his team-high 24 points in the final eight minutes to spark the Gladiators (9-10), who erased a six-point deficit to lead by two, 45-43, entering the fourth quarter. On Monday night, St. Francis pulled away down the stretch to beat seventh-ranked Pine River.
The Gladiators won Tuesday despite losing leading scorer Byron Bullough to a foot injury midway through the second quarter. He did not return.
“I was really impressed with the guys tonight,” Gladiators coach Keith Haske said. “We overcame a lot of stuff — Byron going down, foul trouble.
“I thought Noah Phillips was tremendous. He’s got that talent. He’s 6-8 and can run and jump and shoot. He’s starting to show toughness, too, around the basket.
“And Tanner Kenney is starting to step up. He played tough inside. And I don’t know what you can say about the freshman point guard, Gabe Callery? He’s starting to rise up.
“This is one of the great team wins I’ve had in a while. The guys off the bench all did something positive. That’s a good, athletic team we played. We’re pleased to get it (win) tonight.”
Kenney, a 6-8 center, added 15 points before fouling out. Callery contributed eight points.
Glen Lake’s Carter Lee led all scorers with 28 points, but he was held to two free throws in the fourth quarter.
“I think we stopped going inside and attacking,” Lakers coach Todd Hazelton said. “We started taking more perimeter shots, but their defense dictated that. They did a good job.
“Sometimes we rely on Carter a little too much and it kind of showed in the fourth quarter.”
Phillips scored the first six points of the fourth quarter to push the Gladiators lead to eight, 51-43. Glen Lake could not recover.
“They’re a great team,” Phillips said. “We love playing Glen Lake. They were the only team we lost to last season. We lost to them twice.
“It feels amazing to finally beat them. The team played great tonight. Everyone stepped up.”
St. Francis jumped out to a quick 10-2 lead, but the Lakers fought back to tie it at 16 at the end of the quarter. With Lee leading the charge — he had 18 at the break— the Lakers went up two at half, 33-31. They stretched the lead to six in the third quarter before St. Francis turned the tide.
“We knew it was going to be super competitive here,” Haske said. “Our kids have grown so much from a competitive standpoint. We didn’t compete like that earlier in the year. To watch them grow like that is truly heartening for me.”
Logan LaCross added 10 points and 6-9 sophomore center Jarred Ritter eight for the Lakers (12-7).
“It was a real physical game, which we expected,” Hazelton said. “I’m sure they were out for us after last year. They probably had this one circled on the calendar. We could see them a week from Friday (in district finals) and that’s what we hope happens.”
Before that, the Lakers have a battle with Leelanau County rival Suttons Bay.
“I just told the kids to flush this one down the toilet,” Hazelton said. “Suttons Bay is going to be out for blood too because we beat them earlier in the year and they want the league outright.”
A Laker win opens the door for Frankfort to earn a tie in the Northwest.
Glen Lake won the JV game 56-51. Jake Duperon netted 13 points and Hunter Gushurst 12 for the Lakers. Marek Laucky had 20 and Dru McFadden 14 for the Gladiators.