Gabriel Richard girls basketball upsets Chelsea, 37-30, in Class B district final
On paper it looked like a mismatch.
The 20-2 Chelsea High School girls basketball team entered Friday’s district championship game against Father Gabriel Richard as the state's No. 9-ranked team in Class B.
As the Fighting Irish proved with a 37-30 win at Adrian High School, that’s why games are not played on paper.
“We have the utmost respect for (Chelsea coach) Todd (Blomquist) and what those kids do and the league that they play in,” said Gabriel Richard coach Matt Carroll. “We felt good about ourselves coming in.”
Gabriel Richard used a stingy defense and some clutch shooting to avenge a loss to the Bulldogs in last year’s district final. The victory earned them a trip to a Class B regional at Eaton Rapids, where they'll play the host Greyhounds (20-3) at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday.
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Knowing they were considered the underdogs gave the Irish some extra motivation.
“That definitely motivated us. We get motivated by that a lot and we want to come out and prove to them that we deserve to win,” said senior Angela Broggi, who scored eight points.
Things didn’t start fast for the Irish, who did not score for the first four-and-a-half minutes of the game. Luckily for Gabriel Richard, Chelsea was struggling offensively, too, thanks to the Irish’s zone defense.
“All year, our zone has been our trademark,” said senior Sarah Falvey. “Our 1-3-1, it gives lots of teams trouble. We keep the team where we want them because our defense is so strong.”
The Bulldogs scored a little over a minute into the game, but that would be their only points for the quarter, going more than seven minutes without a point.
“They made us feel uncomfortable at times with that 1-3-1,” Blomquist said. “Free throws and turnovers were the kiss of death for us tonight.”
Chelsea made 3 of 12 shots from the line and turned the ball over 25 times, including seven in the first quarter.
With their defense playing well, the Irish went on an 8-2 run to close out the quarter and take that score into the second.
The two teams would trade baskets to open the second quarter, with Chelsea’s Riley Singleton scoring eight straight points for her team. Gabriel Richard struggled from the floor in the second, but was aggressive on the offensive glass, pulling down 10 offensive boards to keep Chelsea on its heels.
“When we watched them play on Wednesday we saw them hit the glass pretty hard, so it was something we wanted to focus on,” Falvey said. “Our assistant coach actually said it, ‘if we out rebound them, we will win this game.’ So that’s something that we really took to heart.”
Despite hitting the glass, Gabriel Richard only scored eight points in the quarter, going scoreless for the final 5:42 of the half. Chelsea’s Megan Hall hit a pair of 3-pointers to tie the game 16-16 at the half. Hall would lead all scorers with 11 points.
When the teams came out of the break, both sides regressed to their first quarter form with neither side able to generate much offense early.
Eventually, Gabriel Richard would close out the third quarter on an 8-0 run to take a 28-20 lead into the fourth quarter.
As Chelsea began chipping away at the deficit, Falvey would make a spectacular individual play to spark her team to victory.
Gabriel Richard led 30-25 with a little over three minutes left when Falvey intercepted a pass on the baseline and took the ball coast-to-coast for a layup. She was fouled on the play and made the free throw, putting her team up 33-25.
After going scoreless in the first half, Falvey finished the game with a team-high nine points to go with seven steals.
“Sarah has given up a lot of individual accolades this year to make her teammates around her better this year,” said Carroll. “It’s just a testament to her that she doesn’t care about those things, she cares about wins.”
From there, Chelsea was forced to send Gabriel Richard to the line and the Irish would make four of their final five free throws to ice the game. The last two came from Taylor Hinkson, who had seven points, eight rebounds and three steals.
Chelsea senior Grace Martin was emotional speaking about her team's effort after the game.
“The group of us five seniors have been playing together since sixth grade,” Martin said. “But there’s not a team I would have rather gone through the season with. I don’t regret a second of it.”
On the other side, Gabriel Richard’s Maura Dunleavy held the championship trophy in her hands. Dunleavy is one of five seniors on the team who remembers when the program was 4-17 four years ago.
“It’s great! I love it,” she said. “It’s something we wanted so bad ... because it’s our last year here.”