By: John Raffel
Sacred Heart falls in Class D semis
It was a rather unusual postgame press conference for Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart’s girls basketball team.
Coach Damon Brown and Irish players were smiling, laughing, joking and chuckling from start to finish while answering questions from reporters after their semifinal game with Adrian Lenawee Christian on March at Calvin College’s Van Noord Arena.
What’s unusual about that?
The Irish lost 46-44 in overtime.
But one wouldn’t have figured out the Irish’s season had ended at 25-1 at the hands of the team that would wind up as Class D state champs.
But the mood was extremely upbeat despite a loss which came with two seconds to go in OT with the winning shot for Lenawee Christian.
“You couldn’t have asked for anything more tonight,” Brown said. “It was a great tournament high school basketball game. This is what the tournament is all about. You leave it on the floor. That’s why we’re smiling. We’re sad we won’t have a chance to hang out with each other anymore, but it was a great game. Hats off to Lenawee Christian; we knew it was going to be a defensive battle.”
Sacred Heart shot 18-of-51 from the floor while Lenawee was 17-of-51, plus 3-of-17 in 3-point tries. Sacred Heart had a 42-28 rebounding advantage. But the Cougars were able to overcome it.
“Unfortunately, in these type of games, someone goes home,” Brown said. “It doesn’t change anything we’ve done this season. I’m proud of the girls. It’s two really good teams with good players.”
For Sacred Heart, Sophia Ruggles was 9-of-13 from the floor for 19 points and had 15 rebounds. Bree Salenbien, a freshman, had 16 points for Lenawee.
“I couldn’t be more proud of Sophia,” Brown said. “She held her own. Bree had a great game. It was fun watching her play. Sophia has been doing this for four years.”
“I’m so blessed to have played in this program, and with these girls,” Ruggles said.
Junior Scout Nelson had 15 points for Sacred Heart and eight points.
“It’s been a fun season and we’ve gone in with a positive attitude,” she said.
Other seniors were Grace Reetz, Megan Nowak, Margaret Yonker and Hadyn Terwilliger.
“I look at where we’ve come these past four years,” Brown said. “Four years ago. I decided not to coach. I lost my wife to cancer, gave up basketball and I didn’t have any energy. But along came the players. We’ve been the last four years together. With what we’ve been through, these games in no way shape or form define us. We’ve held each other’s hands in dark times.
“When we came here last year, we played for Hadyn,” Brown continued. “She lost her mom last year. This is just a game. What we have here is more important. Basketball is a game, it’s just a game. The girls are all winners in the game of life in my book.”