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Pittsford perfect: Sacred Heart falls to powerhouse Wildcats in Class D state semifinals WITH GALLERY

  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)

EAST LANSING – If you are trying to find a flaw in Pittsford, you aren’t going to find one.

Perhaps the only negative the Wildcats have going for them is that their top two performers, Class D Player of the Year Maddie Clark and fellow All-Stater Jaycee Burger, will be playing the final game of illustrious prep careers Saturday morning in the Class D state title game.

Finding the small Hillsdale County town of under 2,000 people on a map can be difficult as Burger attested to afterward, but the amazing success of Pittsford on the hardwood has helped make it a household name in Michigan high school girls basketball.

“We come from a small town and no one had ever heard of it before the first time we came here,” Burger said. “Pittsford is tiny. We just got a Family Dollar and it was the biggest news ever.”

The community may be tiny, but on the basketball court the Wildcats have played like an unbeatable juggernaut for the last two years.

Pittsford advanced to the state title game for a third consecutive year Thursday night via a 57-39 victory over second-ranked Sacred Heart in the state semifinals at Michigan State’s Breslin Center, winning its 54th consecutive game in the process.

While the contest was close much of the way as the resilient Irish looked to avenge last year’s loss to the Wildcats in the state championship game, Pittsford put it away with a dominant fourth quarter as it outscored SHA 21-10 in the fourth quarter.

Pittsford graduates its two All-State players in Clark and Burger, but what was noticeable in the aftermath of the loss was how calm and upbeat the Irish roster was in the face of a difficult defeat.

Much of that has to do with a Sacred Heart team that will be highly motivated to return to the Breslin Center as nobody will be lost to graduation, including junior All-State forward Sophie Ruggles and sophomore All-State point guard Scout Nelson.

“I’m excited to see what the future holds for this group,” Irish coach Damon Brown said. “We have no seniors on this team, so the locker room was a little bit different this year. There was some motivation and some sadness, but the motivation to get back here is strong. This is only a small part of it. They’ll be back working toward next year in no time.”

Sacred Heart finishes its season with a 25-2, while Pittsford moves to 27-0 and will face Michigan Lutheran Seminary at 10 a.m. Saturday morning in the state title game.

After the win, Pittsford head coach Chris Hodos had big-time compliments for an Irish team that kept the margin within single digits until the fourth quarter.

“That’s the best team we’ve played all year,” Hodos said. “They’re really good and really young. I’m glad we’re moving to Class C, because I’d expect Sacred Heart to be right back here next year.”

Nelson, who seemed overwhelmed at times as a bright-eyed freshman a year ago in the state championship game versus the Pittsford press, was far more comfortable in the big-time atmosphere this time around.

Although the Irish did turn the ball over 28 times and eventually succumbed to the aggressive Wildcats defense, it was a valiant effort by Nelson to carry her squad as far as it could possibly go under the circumstances.

“Coach prepared me a lot more during practice,” Nelson said. “We had a lot of good players come in and get right up in my face during practice, which made a huge difference. I hated it during practice, but it really helped get me ready for such a tough opponent.”

Nelson would end the contest as the lone Irish player in double figures, scoring 16 to go with six rebounds. She also had three steals and blocked two shots, filling the stat sheet in typical fashion.

As difficult as the offensive sledding was for SHA, its own press defense was causing all sorts of problems for Pittsford and the game was a low-scoring affair at 8-7 in favor of the Wildcats at the end of the first quarter.

Nelson would proceed to score on a layup to keep the Irish within 13-12 in the second quarter and later scored on a scoop layup in traffic, making the score 18-16 Pittsford at that juncture.

Shortly thereafter, Ruggles scored her first basket of the game after dealing with early foul trouble and all of a sudden the score was knotted at 18-18 late in the half.

Would it have the makings of an Irish upset victory against a powerhouse team that had won all its games by double digits during the 2016-17 campaign?

Nope, the Wildcats made absolutely certain of that.

Pittsford would score the final five points of the first half, including a runner off the glass by Burger with 1.8 seconds left, and Sacred Heart would head into halftime leading 23-18.

Even with the lapse at the end of the half, it was a much better 16 minutes of first-half basketball than last year against Pittsford when it became a one-sided affair much earlier.

“We were a young team last year and of course we had Averi [Gamble] who the girls rode on the back of,” Brown said. “We learned a lot from last year and the girls grew up. Everything we do in the offseason prepared us for this.”

Nelson opened the second half scoring by draining a 3-pointer to bring SHA with two points, but Burger hit a triple of her own on the other end immediately after and set the tone for the rest of the game.

Every time the Irish would make something positive happen, Pittsford would respond with a back-breaking basket or two.

Sacred Heart kept it relatively close at 36-29 entering the fourth quarter before the Wildcats began pulling away by forcing turnovers and creating easy offense off the giveaways.

“I thought we handled the press pretty well, but when we got into the half-court we made a few poor decisions with the ball that hurt us,” Brown remarked.

Pittsford opened up a 42-31 lead at the six-minute mark and it would get no closer for the Irish.

Ruggles finished with eight points and five rebounds, while Grace Reetz contributed six points along with six rebounds and four assists. Megan Nowak scored four points, Margaret Yonker had three points and Hadyn Terwilliger added two points with five rebounds.

Clark, who picked up her third foul late in the first half, never drew another as she ended her night with 19 points and eight assists. Burger contributed 14 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Marissa Shaw added eight points, eight steals and five boards.

Expect the Irish to be among the favorites and possibly the frontrunner to win a Class D state championship next season with the entire roster back in the fold.

Ruggles says the drive to return to the Breslin Center for a third straight year will burn even brighter in the upcoming months and into the 2017-18 campaign.

“It’s a big motivation for us,” Ruggles stated. “We’re all eager to get back in the gym and compete. This just adds a little fire to want to get better.”

Last Updated: 3/17/2017 12:19:27 AM EST


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