TRAVERSE CITY — When St. Francis needed a spark to ignite its offense Wednesday night, the Gladiators turned to the Big Three.
Byron Bullough knocked down 19 points, Tanner Kenney 18 and Noah Phillips 16 as St. Francis beat McBain 70-63 in a hard-fought Class C district semifinal game here.
The Gladiators (11-11), who will play Manton for the district title Friday, trailed by two entering the fourth quarter.
"McBain came to play. We came to play," Bullough said. "It came down to the wire. It must have been fun to watch because it was fun to play."
Bullough, Kenney and Phillips accounted for all 26 Gladiator points in the fourth quarter — and 38 of the team's 41 in the second half. Most of the points came in the paint.
"We wanted to get the ball inside," Bullough said. "We wanted to dribble drive penetrate. Noah did a spectacular job finishing. So did Tanner. But it was a team effort. Gabe (Callery) was driving and creating. Other guys were, too."
The 6-8 Phillips nailed a 3-pointer to give St. Francis a 59-56 lead with 3:28 left. The 3-pointer started a 9-2 run that pushed the Gladiators lead to 65-58 with about a minute to play.
"We'd get a little lead and they'd fight back. We'd get a little lead and they'd fight back," McBain coach Bruce Koopman said. "They finally made a little run and we didn't have enough time to answer."
The Gladiators picked up the intensity in the fourth quarter.
"We've struggled with that this year, where we didn't play with as much intensity as we needed," St. Francis coach Keith Haske said. "I thought we did raise it up (in the fourth quarter)."
The Gladiators also utilized a size advantage with 6-8 seniors Phillips and Kenney.
"They had a couple guys in foul trouble and we were trying to get the mismatch," Haske said. "We definitely took advantage of it."