TRAVERSE CITY — When it came down to crunch time on Wednesday night, Traverse City St. Francis did not respond like a young and inexperienced team.
A late fourth-quarter push by Bear Lake trimmed a double-digit St. Francis lead down to five points, but the Gladiators didn't allow a point over the last four minutes and claimed a 38-29 victory in the championship game of the Katie Heintz "Keep Believin" Tip Off Tournament at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Middle School. (Below, watch post-game interviews with Traverse City St. Francis' coach Mike Knudsen and Juliana Phillips.)
"Winning the Katie Heintz tournament is one of our team goals," said St. Francis coach Mike Knudsen. "We talk with the girls if we can believe in ourselves the way Katie believed, believe in our faith, believe in our teammates, then it's going to be a great year. It's always nice to start out the year with the Katie Heintz tournament and especially nice to be able to win it."
Freshman Juliana Phillips and sophomore Anne Lyman shared high scorer honors for the Gladiators (2-0), each with 11 points. Phillips, who was named Most Valuable Player of the tournament, had the key play of the night after Bear Lake made it a 34-29 game — the closest the contest had been since the first quarter — when she got a steal and drove all the way in for a layup that halted the Lakers' run.
"I always expect a lot from myself and I have high standards for myself, but I'm just so happy for my team and coming out with this win, especially for the Heintz family. It means a lot to everyone," said Phillips.
Phillips' defensive play that led to instant offense came at a critical time for the Gladiators, who held a double-figure lead for most of the night, but saw that evaporate after they struggled to score and the Lakers got consecutive buckets by Emileigh Ferguson, McKaya Groenwald — who drilled a three — and Katelynn Millard.