MUNISING — Ewen-Trout Creek’s dream season lives on for at least another day with a 56-40 over Rudyard in its MHSAA Division 4 quarterfinal game played in Munising on Tuesday evening.
The Panthers (22-3) advance to the Breslin Center at Michigan State University for their first state semifinal appearance since 1982.
The Panthers face Lake Leelanau (21-4) at 6 p.m. today. Lake Leelanau beat Fulton 60-46 on Tuesday.
E-TC coach Brad Besonen ran out and appeared to hug every player, coach and family member after the game.
But those moments wouldn’t have felt as good without the Panthers putting together a strong performance.
“It was so good, the hugs with those guys after were just amazing,” Besonen said. “It feels so good to be able to give them a chance to experience something that not many high school kids do. It’s their grit and their work that’s got them here.”
E-TC got off to a 14-8 by the end of the first quarter, led by six points from Kelsey Jilek and five from Brendan Polkky.
EJ Suggitt got Rudyard (23-2) back in it with four consecutive points to make it a two-point game, but that’s when the Panthers’ Jaden Borseth stepped in.
Borseth laid in the weeds in the scoring department in the regionals with 16 points combined in two victories. On Tuesday, he scored all of the Panthers’ 15 second-quarter points to close out the first half en route to scoring a game-high 22.
He made three triples and scored three more buckets to keep the Panthers in front with a 29-23 halftime lead. Each team actually scored 15 points in the period.
“I’m really happy for him,” Besonen said. “Anybody that’s been a really, really good high school player is probably the only one who can relate to what it’s like for him to have the expectations of you having to be awesome every night, and he is.
“That’s tough on pros, that’s tough on college kids, that’s really tough on high school kids. He’s done well with that, and I think what’s really made it work for him is that this team, as they’ve grown up, they’ve taken some of the pressure off of him.”
Borseth’s second-quarter output matched the only double-digit scoring quarter for Rudyard. Suggitt got his points, and the Bulldogs had a balanced attack with Austin Warner, Tate Besteman and Cam Peterson. However, it was the missed opportunities offensively that put Rudyard in a hole, said Bulldogs coach Jim Suggitt.
“We didn’t help ourselves,” he said. “I don’t know if we shot 30% from the field, we missed a lot of layups, which gave them a lot of possessions, which gave them a lot of layups.
“Like when we beat their press, and the ball goes through our guys’ hands out of bounds. Or we don’t pump fake, or we pump fake and wait for them or we just flat out miss a layup. There were times that we missed it, and they scored on the other end where that’s a four-point swing. When you do that twice, that’s eight.”
Borseth scored seven more points in the third quarter to guide his team. A floater by Peterson cut the Ewen-Trout Creek advantage to 37-31, but a layup by Jonah Nordine and an and-one from Borseth was huge to boost the lead to 11.
Both teams only had five players score, so depth was going to be a concern. Foul trouble hit both teams hard in the first half, but the fouls really began piling up on the Bulldogs in the fourth quarter.
Peterson, Suggitt and Warner combined to score the nine points for Rudyard in the final period. However, down in the foul count, the Bulldogs were giving the Panthers two shots each time down the stretch.
Jilek went 6 of 6 from the free-throw line, while Eric Abramson had a quiet game, though he was 4 of 4 on free throws in the fourth.
The Panthers were able to withstand any kind of Rudyard comeback, and extended the lead to 16 by game’s end.
Borseth poured in 22 to lead all scorers, while Jilek put up 14, Abramson 11, Polkky seven and Nordine two.
Suggitt led the Bulldogs with 11 points, and Rudyard had a strong balance behind him with nine points from Warner, and eight points each from Peterson and Besteman.
“We thanked them for the journey that they took us on, some of them have been on the varsity for four years, so it’s been a steady improvement,” Suggitt said. “Eleven wins, 15 wins, 18, 23, (for) these guys, the sky’s the limit. We told them whatever they do after school, we got your back.”
The Panthers played a tough schedule to prepare for the moment. Now in the state semifinals, playing the likes of much bigger schools like Menominee, Kingsford and Jeffers set up the Panthers for success.
“It’s the schedule,” Besonen said. “I really don’t think we honestly have a chance in this game if we don’t play Menominee, Kingsford, Hurley, Jeffers, Jeffers. And our scrimmages, we scrimmaged Negaunee, we scrimmaged Westwood, we scrimmaged Houghton and we scrimmaged Kingsford.
“We knew we had to beef stuff up this year, I don’t think I’ll ever have the ability to schedule like we did this year because you won’t be able to compete in some of those games.
“So I think that all worked out well for us, and we played some of the physicality that we saw here tonight. Rudyard’s fantastic, the way they guard is outstanding.”
E-TC 14 15 13 14 — 56
RHS 8 15 8 9 — 40
Summary (field goals, free throws, total points)
EWEN-TROUT CREEK (56): Abramson 3-4-11, Nordine 1-0-2, Jilek 3-8-14, Borseth 8-3-22, Polkky 3-1-7. Totals 18-16-56. FT: 16-20.
RUDYARD (40): Besteman 3-2-8, Peterson 4-0-8, Warner 2-4-9, Zeeryp 2-0-4, Suggitt 4-3-11. Totals 15-9-40. FT: 9-12.