TRAVERSE CITY — Someone needed to step up.
That someone didn’t even start. He sure finished.
Gus Danz came off the bench for a career-high 21 points to lead Traverse City St. Francis in Monday’s district-opening 72-56 home win over Kalkaska.
With scoring leader Byron Bullough sitting out his second straight game due to an ankle injury, the Gladiators needed to replace his scoring. In Friday’s regular-season finale loss at Harbor Springs, that didn’t happen, and St. Francis lost 55-52.
“We knew somebody had to step up,” Gladiators coach Keith Haske said. “We went to Harbor (Springs) Friday, and we needed to have that third guy step up — and we didn’t. It was really fun seeing (Danz) step up and see him do that.”
Bullough will try to practice tonight and hopes to play in Wednesday’s district semifinal at home against McBain (13-6). St. Francis beat the Ramblers 75-70 early in the season, but that was in the midst of a 1-4 start for McBain. The team has rebounded to win 12 of its last 14.
“He’s so much the core of our team,” Danz said. “He’s coming back soon, I hope, and it’ll be good when he gets back.”
The Blazers (2-18) actually led 18-17 after one quarter, taking the lead on a pair of Rick Schuster free throws with 1:39 remaining.
“Kalkaska played so much better,” Haske said. “You saw their kids improve the third time we played them. We know they’re dangerous, because they can shoot the three.”
Early in the second quarter Kalkaska was up five on a Kameron Cavanaugh 3-pointer.
Then three straight 6-0 Gladiator runs interspersed by a lone Blazer score closed out the first half, including one over the final 34 seconds on buckets by Danz, Lance Anderson and Dylan Sheehy to take a 36-28 lead into the locker room.