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Frankfort hopes to make own luck against Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart in Division 4 state quarterfinals

Mar. 16—FRANKFORT — Area teams haven't had much luck lately when they've squared off against the Irish of Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart.

Just last Monday, the Sacred Heart girls basketball team ended the historic season of the Brethren Bobcats in the regional semifinals.

A day later, the Irish knocked off the Glen Lake Lakers in the boys basketball state quarterfinals.

Now, the Frankfort varsity girls basketball squad hopes to avoid being the third leg in the trifecta.

The Panthers already have their own history of heartbreak with the Irish as it was Sacred Heart that dashed Frankfort's state championship hopes the last time they reached the quarterfinals in 2017. Sacred Heart knocked off the Frankfort, 47-38, in the Class D state quarters on Pi Day — March 14, 2017.

The last time the Panthers won a state quarterfinal and booked a date at the Breslin was in 2015 when they beat — you guessed it — Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart by a 49-42 final on St. Patrick's Day, March 17. Frankfort fell to St. Ignace in the state semis, 59-50, to finish the season 24-2.

Tuesday, the Panthers and Irish again do battle on the hardcourt in the Division 4 state quarters at McBain Northern Michigan Christian High School.

At stake? Just a trip to East Lansing and the opportunity to play at Michigan State University's Breslin Center.

Also at stake? The follicle fate of Frankfort head coach Tim Reznich.

"There's a piece of worn-out, yellowed paper in my classroom from six years ago," Reznich said. "It says that if this group of seniors makes it to the Breslin Center in 2024, they get to dye my hair any color they want."

Does Reznich expect his four seniors — Evelyn VanTol, Kylee Harris, Elle Rommell and Keiara Pettengill — to hold him to their middle-school agreement?

"There's no question about it. There's no way I can get out of that one," he said with a laugh.

Reznich is hopeful the foursome will allow for a delay in a change in hair color until after his trip to Ireland with his wife, which is set for the day after the state finals.

"I think they're going to have to wait," he said. "These seniors, they're knuckleheads. They've been around for forever, since they were in the seventh grade as managers."

Rommell recently suffered a season-ending knee injury, which is a loss for the Panthers as Reznich referred to her as one of the smartest players he's ever coached.

"Whatever we asked her to do, she did it," Reznich said. "Everything we do from here on out is for her. I just wish she could be on the court with them. She's still so supportive and doing everything she can for the team."

Frankfort (21-5) has won 10 straight games that have included district and regional championships. Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart (23-3) has won seven straight, but neither team won their respective conferences this season. Frankfort finished third to Kingsley and Glen Lake in the Northwest Conference while Sacred Heart was runner-up to St. Charles in the Mid-State Activities Conference.

Reznich said the top-notch competition in the Northwest Conference was a big factor in preparing the Panthers for a deep postseason run.

"Our conference was incredible this year. It was tough as nails," he said. "You were always in a battle no matter who you were playing. ... What a great way to spend the season preparing for the tournament, and that's always been our philosophy — the regular season is all practice for the tournament."

Reznich is in his 22nd year as head coach of the Panthers, and he has become friends with the former Sacred Heart coaches that he once did battle against. He hasn't yet had the opportunity to meet current Irish head coach Andrew Doerr, but Reznich said he's looking forward to remedying that Tuesday.

"I loved seeing those guys and competing against those guys. We always had a great mutual respect for each other," Reznich said of former Sacred Heart coaches Mark DeNoyelles and Damon Brown. "Although there is a new regime there now, I'm sure they're still very good and it'll be nice to get to know them, too."

Reznich said the focus this season has been solely in-house and that they "haven't been paying much attention to anyone else on the planet" other than 15 players on the roster and the coaches on staff.

"We've been so focused on our game all season long, just working hard and getting better," Reznich said. "I saw the potential in these girls back in the summer. I've been telling them for months, 'If you guys keep working the way you are, you can do something very, very special.'"

That persistence paid off after a 3-3 start to the Panthers' 2023-24 campaign.

"When we struggling early in the season and we asked them to do something, they would try but wouldn't be able to get it done. But now this is the culmination of everything they've worked on," Reznich said. "That's just a satisfying feeling."

Reznich felt this team was on the path toward East Lansing right from the start.

"Everybody else might be surprised, but I'm not surprised at all," he said. "I have all the faith in the world in this group. We still have to go out and play the game as best we can; but if we do, we're going to be a tough beat for anybody."

The state quarterfinal between the Panthers and the Irish is set to start at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

"We're just happy that we get to play another game and that we get a shot at somebody," Reznich said. "It happens to be Sacred Heart, who's always tough. We know it will be a great game and a great challenge."