MCC to be tested against No. 7 Sacred Heart in Regional Tuesday

The state tournament gets a little tougher the deeper a team goes.

Every team will play a district champion in the regional semifinals on Tuesday, but the Manistee Catholic Central girls basketball team gets the added pressure of playing the defending Class D state champions, the No. 7 Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart Irish.

“It is going to be a challenge, but I am looking forward to it,” said second-year Sabers coach Terry Walker. “… We have to play our best game of the season. Anything can happen.

“Play hard. Play smart. Play together. If we do that, I am happy.”

Priority number one for the Sabers (13-8) when they hit the court at 6 p.m. at Big Rapids Crossroads will be stopping the Irish’s dominant post player, Averi Gamble.

Sabers junior Kaytlin Heck looks to score against Onekama on the road on Feb. 19. (Jared Buchholz/News Advocate)

Sabers junior Kaytlin Heck looks to score against Onekama on the road on Feb. 19. (Jared Buchholz/News Advocate)

“She is really tough to defend. We haven’t seen anybody her size all year,” Walker said. “She plays around the basket and blocks shots in the paint. If she catches it on the block, you aren’t going to stop her.

“We did some things against Brethren against their high post play and we are probably going to look to try to do the same thing against Sacred Heart.”

While stopping her on offense will prove to be a great challenge, Walker wants to make her work on the other end of the court too.

“I talked Saturday with some of our post players about trying to spot up in the short corner in our X-action offense and try to draw Gamble out just a little bit,” Walker said. “If we can hit a few eight to 12-foot shots and she comes out, I am confident we can put the ball on the floor and get by her.”

The defending state champions aren’t a one-dimensional team though, as they boast both talent and championship experience throughout the roster.

“Riley Terwilliger just exploded (in the state semifinals last season). I remember watching her, and she had a really big game, and she is back,” Walker said of Irish’s senior guard.

The Sabers enter the game with their fifth-straight district championship to help boost confidence.

They beat Walkerville in the first round 44-22, then downed Baldwin in the semifinal 43-21. They then topped Brethren 47-43 to win the district.

“It is a big accomplishment for the girls and the previous staff that was here,” Walker said. “To me the win Friday night was so much more rewarding because last year I think we were definitely the dominant team in the field and we were expected to take it.”

Last season, the Sabers won the three district games by a total of 83 points, with the closest being a 17 point win.

“Mainly because we have struggled a lot this year. We had a lot of adversity in terms of injury and sickness. In January we got into a funk and really struggled,” Walker said. “It really didn’t start picking up until the third week of February when we started to play a little better ball.

“To me this was so much more satisfying than last year because of the struggles we had to overcome.”

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