TRAVERSE CITY — The St. Francis girls basketball roster says Juliana Phillips and Sarah Carney are freshmen, but the Gladiators two frontcourt standouts play more like seasoned veterans.
Those two combined for 25 points and 17 rebounds to spearhead the Gladiators’ 43-25 victory over Traverse City Central on Tuesday in the Hoops for Hope game at Central High School.
Carney sparked St. Francis in the first half, scoring all 10 of her points as the Gladiators staked out a 20-14 lead at the half. Phillips caught fire in the second half and scored 12 of her game-high 15, allowing St. Francis to pull away to a double-digit victory.
“I think it’s just really awesome to come out with this win,” said Phillips. “All-in-all it’s for a great cause and it’s really great to come up to the challenge of a Class A school. We love coming to play these teams. It’s always fun because we know they’re always going to bring a hard challenge. We knew they were going to give it all they had tonight and we just had to play to the best of our ability. My whole team was great.”
The game was unique in that it featured Central head coach Heather Simpson against some of the volleyball players she coaches at St. Francis in the fall. It was the fifth edition of the Hoops for Hope game, which raises money for Child and Family Services and Girls on the Run and provides shoes for kids in need.
“This is really good for us because it’s such a great cause and more so just to come out here and play and have a great time against some of the people that we know really well, especially Heather, because we all know and love her,” said Carney. “It’s just a good victory for us overall for our season. A lot of things were clicking, but a lot of things didn’t go the way we wanted it to, necessarily. We still got the victory.”
St. Francis led throughout each of the last three quarters, taking control of the game midway through the third period with a double-digit lead that grew to as large as 19 points in the fourth period.
“Phillips and Carney were a huge factor,” said Simpson. “They played aggressive and they just kept on rebounding and we just didn’t have an answer for them. Credit St. Francis. They came in and they did the little things. (St. Francis head coach) Mike (Knudsen) really has them playing sharp. It was a tough night for us. I feel for our kids. I think we’re better than we’re showing. That’s on me to right the ship.”
Callie Bartkowiak scored nine points to lead Central, which fell to 3-10.
Annie Lyman chipped in with nine points and 10 boards for the Gladiators, who improved to 11-2 with their fourth straight win.
“I was very pleased with how our team played today,” said Knudsen. “They came ready to play. Our inside game was strong. Our guards played well, I thought. Defense is what held the team together.”
Simpson admitted it was strange to go against players she coaches in volleyball, as well as the others from St. Francis who she has come to know well from coaching at the school.
“I’m lucky because I work for two great schools and I have great kids on both sides, but it is a little bit different tonight coaching against kids I spend the majority of the fall with and wanting to shut them down,” she said.
Knudsen gave kudos to Simpson for organizing the event, which topped the $20,000 mark this year for funds generated.
“Heather does a great job with this,” he said. “She does an excellent job of organizing all of this and raising money for Child and Family Services and Girls on the Run.”
Central took the junior varsity game 35-10. Abby Green had 10 points to lead Central and Haven Hill recorded five blocks. St. Francis had three points each from Colleen LaBonte and Gigi Ward.