Traverse City Record-Eagle

Sports

March 20, 2014

Panthers, Vikings set for big stage

TRAVERSE CITY — Neither Frankfort nor Cadillac won conference basketball titles this season.

But those two teams are the last standing from this region as March Madness hits the semifinal stage at Michigan State’s Breslin Center.

Frankfort (20-6) plays two-time defending state champion Southfield Christian in a Class D contest at 6 p.m. this evening. Cadillac (19-6) faces Benton Harbor in a Class B semifinal at 6 p.m. Friday.

The Vikings reached the Final Four a year ago, but lost to eventual state champion Detroit Country Day 72-43.

“We need to play better on the big stage,” Cadillac coach Jeff McDonald said. “Hopefully, the experience we had a year ago will help us (Friday).”

Frankfort is making its first semifinal appearance since 1969.

“We’re going down there to win the game, but at the same time this is a reward for the way they’ve played during the tournament,” Panthers coach Reggie Manville said. “We’ve played our best basketball in the last month. This group has put in a lot of hard work.”

Frankfort’s won 10 of its last 11 games. The lone setback was on the road at Class C Elk Rapids. Cadillac’s claimed nine of its last 10 games — the only setback a 10-point loss to Mount Pleasant, which is in the Class A semifinals. Three of the Vikings tournament wins have come in overtime, including Tuesday’s 55-49 triumph over Big Rapids.

“We’ve had our share of excitement,” McDonald said. “Nobody tells me after a game how pretty it was. They all tell me how exciting it was.”

For Cadillac and Frankfort, it all starts on the defensive end. The Vikings are surrendering 46 points a game, the Panthers 47.1.

“We embrace the idea we have to be a real good defensive team and then find ways to get it done offensively,” McDonald said.

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