By JAMES COOK firstname.lastname@example.org
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Frankfort's Brandon Schaub had pneumonia on Monday.
The only thing sick about the Panthers guard on Wednesday was his game.
After playing sparingly and being largely ineffective in the regional semifinal, Schaub gave Frankfort a much-needed shot in the arm and scored 17 points in a 55-42 regional final victory over previously-undefeated Bellaire. The win brought Frankfort its first regional championship since 1975.
"This is huge for everybody," said David Loney, who scored a game-high 27 points. "For us. For the community. For the whole school. This is a great accomplishment because we're really young. It means a lot to our team. It feels great to bring this trophy back to Frankfort."
After knocking off fifth-ranked Bellaire (23-1), Frankfort plays No. 1 Wyoming Tri-unity Christian in Tuesday's quarterfinal at Comstock Park. Tri-unity is 23-2 and hasn't lost since Jan. 15, but had a tough time beating 14-12 Muskegon Catholic Central 56-53 in overtime to advance to the quarterfinal.
Wednesday's victory puts an end to Frankfort's regional title drought that stretched nearly 40 years.
"It's going to stay with me until at least tomorrow," Panthers coach Reggie Manville said, clutching the trophy.
Schaub wasn't sure he'd play, let alone receive a regional medal. On Monday, he scored only two points — 13 below his average.
"My fever broke (Tuesday)," Schaub said. "I've been on some antibiotics. So I'm feeling a whole lot better."
"Tuesday, I didn't think he was going to play," Manville said. "But he's a very aggressive ball player — and he's got quickness. He can mismatch that quickness against guys that are bigger than he is. And he knows how to take advantage of it. He really took it to the basket hard and did a great job."
Aside from one 3-pointer, all of Schaub's points resulted from aggressive drives to the basket.
"He helped a lot," Loney said of Schaub. "He came in and hit some big shots."
Frankfort hit 50 percent of its attempts (23 of 46), while holding the Eagles to 37.8 percent.
Bellaire seemed in control early, and Frankfort held on to keep up with the Eagles, who led 14-11 after one quarter and 24-23 at halftime. Bellaire led much of the second quarter by 4-6 points, until a deep 3-pointer by Schaub pulled the Panthers within one in the final minute.
The combination of Mitch Teetzel and Drew Bailey inside helped put Bellaire up, as Teetzel had eight points by halftime.
"We've been playing against bigger guys all season, so we knew what it was going to be like," Loney said. "Once we got it inside, we have such great outside shooting that we can work it in and out and get an inside-outside game going. That really helped us with Owen and everybody starting to hit shots from the outside to get things going in the second half."
Frankfort took its first lead early in the third quarter. Bellaire countered with a Hall driving lay-up and then Mason Loney drew his fourth foul 1:17 into the second half while fighting for a loose ball.
"When Mason got his fourth foul, I had to go to three guards," Manville said. "And when we went to three guards, I knew we were either going to take control of the game through guard play or they were going to keep pounding it in the post like they had been doing in the first half. ... Our guards went in there well and scrapped."
A Schaub drive, two David Loney buckets inside and a Schaub bank shot with 38 ticks left gave Frankfort a 33-30 lead heading into the final stanza.
"I knew we had to get some points on the boards, so I just took it strong to the hoop," Schaub said.
The Panthers kept that up in the fourth, reeling off an 8-2 spurt to start things off, as David Loney and Schaub scored four each in that span to take a 41-33 lead.
"We knew they were a good opponent and wanted to slow things down," Loney said. "So we wanted to run and gun as much as possible and play good defense."
Bellaire drew within five — the closest it'd get the rest of the way — on a Hall 3-pointer with 1:39 remaining.
David Loney scored 14 in the fourth quarter alone.
Hall led Bellaire with 16 and Teetzel ended up with 12.
"We knew coming into this game that Bellaire was undefeated," Schaub said. "But that's not how we saw it. We came in like it's another team. They're our age. They're in high school. The same as us."
Owen Stratton added seven for Frankfort.
"I knew we could do this from the very start of the season," said Stratton, the team's only senior in the starting lineup. "I always had confidence in us. It showed tonight."