COMSTOCK PARK — Looking at the final scoreboard, it would have appeared Frankfort won its Class D quarterfinal against Wyoming Tri-unity.
After all, the Panthers scored 57 points to the guest’s 33.
But Frankfort was the scoreboard’s away team. Tri-unity was home and had quarterfinal host Comstock Park’s traditional Panthers mascot above its score during the 57-33 victory that put the No. 1-ranked Defenders (24-2) into their ninth Final Four in 17 years.
“It hurts right now,” Frankfort head coach Reggie Manville said. “They can stop over the next day or two and reflect on what we accomplished. I’m not happy. I won’t be happy unless we win the whole thing. We’re going to work towards that goal.”
And that isn’t unrealistic. The Panthers (20-6) return almost everybody from a team that won a regional title for the first time since 1975.
“They’re going to be a good team, as young as they are,” said Tri-unity coach Mark Keeler, who helped produce future NBA player Chris Kaman. “They should have good things to look forward to.”
The win put Keeler one step closer to a major career milestone. If the Defenders go on and win the state crown, it’d be his 500th coaching victory in 26 years as the school’s only varsity boys basketball coach.
Tri-unity’s half-court trapping defense led to 19 steals for the aptly-named Defenders. Those turnovers were frequently cashed in for transition buckets as Wyoming built up a 15-7 lead after one quarter and 29-17 at the intermission.
“It was an up-the-line defense, where any time you go to the corner, they double teamed us and we couldn’t get the ball to the other side,” Manville said.
Frankfort made a run at the Defenders in the third quarter, pulling to within seven points on a David Loney free throw with 1:50 left in the third. That caused Keeler to use a full timeout.