St. Ignace Goes Cold Late; Falls In State Semifinals

This story is courtesy of the Michigan High School Athletic Association. Photo is courtesy of Hockey Weekly Action Photos.

EAST LANSING — Thursday’s first Division 4 Semifinal was a matter of depth and experience overcoming star power. 

St. Ignace senior Jonny Ingalls entered the game averaging 30 points a contest, and Wyoming Tri-unity Christian head coach Mark Keeler knew Ingalls would get his – which he did in the form of 31 points. 

But summoning their wealth of big-game experience and a deeper bench, Tri-unity Christian overcame Ingalls and St. Ignace with a late surge to earn a 60-53 win. 

The Defenders (23-5) advanced to their fourth straight championship game, where they’ll look to claim a second title in three seasons after losing last year’s Final 39-37 to Munising.

“I think depth had a lot to do with it,” Tri-unity Christian head coach Mark Keeler said. “I think they were all tired. I told them before the game that (Ingalls) is going to get some shots. He is an amazing player. He is going to knock them down. What we didn’t want was for him to score 41 points like he did the last game.”

Tri-unity Christian certainly had a lot of work to do in less than a 48-hour period between Tuesday’s Quarterfinal round and Thursday to prepare for Ingalls, which made practice a more concentrated effort than usual Wednesday.

“We hadn’t played someone with the talent and jump shot he has all year,” Tri-unity Christian senior Jordan VanKlompenberg said. “We said we were going to face-guard him and not let him catch the ball, but if he’s bringing the ball up, it’s hard to do that. In practice, we definitely focused more on a single player.”

The teams went back-and-forth the entire game, but especially during the fourth quarter. 

St. Ignace held a 40-36 lead going into the fourth, but Tri-unity Christian scored the first five points of the quarter to take a 41-40 lead with 6:05 remaining in the game.

The Saints responded with a run of their own, scoring the next seven points to take a 47-41 lead with 4:46 left following a pair of free throws by Ingalls. 

But Tri-unity Christian had an answer of its own, going on a 12-1 run to grab a 53-48 lead with 1:54 to go. The run was highlighted by a pair of 3-pointers by senior Lincoln Eerdmans.   

A basket by Ingalls brought St. Ignace to within 55-51 with 1:03 remaining, but Tri-unity Christian did a nice job of keep-away with the ball and ultimately went up 57-51 with 34 seconds left on two free throws by VanKlompenberg. 

A 3-point attempt by Ingalls went in and out on the next St. Ignace possession, and the shot was rebounded Tri-unity Christian junior Keaton Blanker. Following a foul, Blanker made two free throws to give the Defenders a 59-51 lead with 24.4 seconds remaining that all but sealed the game. 

Blanker scored 19 points, and senior Wesley Kaman added 14 for Tri-unity Christian, which had a 38-26 rebounding advantage. 

It was a tough way to end the season for St. Ignace (21-7), which advanced to the Semifinals for the first time since 1983 and now has to say farewell to six seniors – and retiring 25-year coach Doug Ingalls – who brought the program to heights not seen in more than four decades. 

“They finished and we didn’t, and that was the deciding factor in this game,” said Ingalls, who is stepping down with a record of 375-182 over three stints leading the program. “We had the heart of a champion.”

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