GRAYLING — Opportunity abounds Thursday.
Manton and Glen Lake cruised to regional semifinal victories Tuesday in Grayling, setting up a rematch in Thursday’s Division 3 girls basketball regional championship game upon the same floor.
The Rangers (21-2) defeated Hart 51-36 after jumping out to a 30-8 lead, holding off a Pirates run that cut the deficit to six and controlling the fourth quarter to stroll into the final.
Glen Lake (21-3) dominated Pinconning (17-7) from the start, rolling to a 38-14 halftime lead after a 32-8 advantage through 13 minutes.
Now comes Round Three.
The Rangers won the last two matchups, including last season’s 46-36 district opener and a four-point win Jan. 8 at Glen Lake.
“We’ve been looking forward to this a lot,” Lakers guard Hailey Helling said. “Just coming out in the beginning is our huge thing. We’re just super excited to get another chance to play them again.”
The two face off Thursday at 7 p.m., back in Grayling.
“Third time’s a charm, they always say,” Glen Lake head coach Jason Bradford said. “Lake City was for them, so hopefully we’ll see.”
Manton lost twice to Highland Conference champion Lake City in the regular season, then avenged those setbacks — their only two of the year — in the district championship.
Manton is chasing only the second regional championship in girls program history and the first since 1983.
“We have a hurt team right now, a sick team,” said Rangers guard Abby Brown, who scored 25 points while playing with the flu. “But we’re giving them everything that we’ve got. We’re not backing down.”
Brown hit 3-of-7 from 3-point range and 6-of-7 from the line to lead the Rangers, while Abby Shepler pitched in 10 points, five assists, seven steals and a block.
Molly Lane added eight points and four rebounds and Jaden Wilder had five points, five rebounds and two assists while playing on a sprained ankle. Brianna Puffer contributed three boards and four steals.
Wilder re-aggravated the injury when she was undercut by a Hart player while taking a desperation 3-pointer to end the first half.
“She’s super mentally tough and she kept it active in the in the locker room,” Manton head coach J.P. Katona said. “That’s the worst time to do it, because you’re standing around, but she kept it active in the locker room. I’m proud of her, the way she’s able to play on a basically one and a half ankles.”
Brown has battled an upper respiratory infection all of March.
“It’s all congestion,” Brown said. “So like all in my chest, my breathing, my nose. I cough all the time. I just have to fight through it. Games like this you can’t take plays off. No rest for the wicked.”
Glen Lake was paced by Jessica Robbins’ 13 points. She added five rebounds, two steals and a pair of assists. Senior Karrigan LaCross dished out a career-high 11 assists in addition to four steals.
Grace Bradford posted a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds, while Helling had eight points, six steals, four assists and three boards as most Laker starters played somewhat limited minutes in the blowout. Grace Fosmore contributed six points, seven rebounds and three steals.
Freshman Ruby Hogan contributed four points, six steals, three boards and four assists off the bench. Liliana Vaulkner scored eight points and Emma Korson four.
“The press really rattled them,” Jason Bradford said. “Then they called timeout and they got the one easy bucket and we adjusted a little bit and the girls were quick to respond.”
The Lakers racked up 26 steals as a team, as well as 24 assists as many thefts turned into fast break opportunities.
Manton’s pressure defense did much the same to Hart, which finishes the season 19-5, the third-most wins in program history. The Rangers had to call off the press that worked so well after some foul trouble, and ended the game with 14 steals.
That led to Hart getting within six in the third quarter, 33-27, but then Manton went on an 8-0 run to take back control.
“That’s the best defensive team we played all year,” Hart head coach Travis Rosema said. “Probably the best team we played all year, so I’m proud of the way we fought.”
The Lakers and Rangers combined to commit only 22 turnovers over their two games Tuesday.
“It was our defense that created our offense,” Katona said. “I like the way we came out pressuring them. We were able to create some turnovers and made our open looks in the first quarter.”
Pinconning sophomore guard Brielle Herner received a surprise visit after the national anthem from her older sister back from serving in the U.S. Army.