Good-bye difficult for Lady Trojans

Girls Basketball

CRYSTAL FALLS — The girls basketball season ended a few days earlier than Forest Park expected Tuesday.

Engadine, led by senior guard Olivia Vaughn and junior pivot Aubrey Simmons, outlasted the Lady Trojans 44-41 in the Class D state quarterfinals at Negaunee.

Forest Park had hoped to be in East Lansing this week for the rest of the tournament.

“I’m so proud of this group,” Forest Park Coach Jackie Giuliani said. “I don’t want to say good-bye to them. I don’t want them to think of what might have been, but of what they did.

“This was a special team because they really cared about each other. Nobody put themselves above anyone else and I think that’s why we made it here.”

What they did was battle all season long in the Skyline Central Conference, putting up 10 wins against three losses. They carried a 20-4 record into the quarterfinals after winning the district and needing double overtime to beat league rival Bark River-Harris in the regional championship.

“They stuck together through a lot of different things through these last four years,” Giuliani said.

To break down the quarterfinal in a nutshell, it came down to shooting and rebounding.

Engadine hit 46 percent of its shots and Forest Park was at 25 percent. Vaughn, reportedly headed to the University of Michigan with an academic scholarship, scored 13 timely points in the quarterfinals and had 30 in the Eagles’ state semifinal loss to Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary.

The Eagles grabbed 31 rebounds to the Trojans’ 24. Simmons was a force underneath with 12 points and 13 rebounds.

“Engadine got us out of our flow and we couldn’t find our flow until the fourth quarter,” said Giuliani, her Trojans rallying from an 11-point deficit to one with 15 seconds to go. “Our girls played as hard as they could but we didn’t have our best game, and I think they did.”

Jackie had one regret, taking off the full-court pressure early in the game. The Trojans did wind up with 10 steals and 15 points off turnovers.

“They were beating us a couple times, so we got a little afraid of their athleticism,” Giuliani said. “But in the end you could tell we had more energy, so we should have stuck with it.”

A quarterfinal loss will not diminish Giuliani’s pride in her 2016-17 Lady Trojans.

“I’m sad we can’t continue this journey together,” said Giuliani, who has guided two teams to quarterfinals in the past three years. “I’m going to miss these girls tremendously.

“I know everyone of them is going to make a difference in this world. They’re that type of girls.”