REED CITY — For the second straight year, the Gaylord St. Mary girls advanced to the Class D quarterfinals only to be denied a berth in the Final Four by a single basket.
The Snowbirds, who were beaten a year ago 59-57 by Crystal Falls Forest Park, lost this time around 42-40 to Climax-Scotts. The heartbreaking defeat at the hands of the Panthers here Tuesday brings the St. Mary season to a close with a 23-3 record.
“It’s painful to come this close again and know we won’t be going (to The Breslin Center),” said senior wing Mary Spyhalski, a three-year varsity starter who scored 10 points and grabbed six rebounds. “We played our hearts out and we were right there at the end, same as last year.
“It was still awesome to come here (in the quarterfinals) in back-to-back years, though,” she added. “Not too many teams get to do that.”
Climax-Scotts (20-5) trailed 23-21 early in the third quarter before gaining a lead it would not relinquish. The Snowbirds stormed back in the final minutes of the game to pull within a point but the Panthers were able to hold off the late rally and secure the tense victory and the team’s first trip to the Final Four since 1986.
“Our senior leadership showed down the stretch and the fact that we’ve been in the regional finals the last two years really helped,” Climax coach Dana Perrin said. “Even though we didn’t make it out of regionals (in 2011 and 2012), we played in those big games and it was a great preparation for this year’s group of girls.”
Climax senior guard Janae Langs scored seven of her game-high 18 points in the third quarter as the Panthers regained the lead and she scored five more in the fourth quarter to help the Panthers retain the lead with the Snowbirds closing strong.