Frankfort has small winnings in state semis loss

Mar. 21—EAST LANSING — There are small winnings the Frankfort girl's basketball program can take with them after Thursday's Division 4 girls' state semifinals loss.

Playing at Michigan State University's Breslin Center is where every high school basketball player has their sights on the minute they make the varsity team.

The Frankfort girl's basketball team accomplished more than it could imagine after getting through the district championship game by defeating Onekama 53-47, followed by a routing of Gaylord St. Mary 64-37 — with senior Evelyn VanTol scoring a career-high 30 points. After several previous playoff heartbreaks against Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart, the Panthers' luck changed with a 56-46 win in the state quarterfinals.

For a moment, the Panthers controlled their destiny in the Division 4 girls state semifinals with a 12-11 lead to start the second quarter before Kingston woke up and rallied for 14 straight points.

Despite a 56-35 loss, the achievement of reaching the Breslin Center couldn't be overstated enough by Frankfort head coach Tim Reznich.

"I am so proud of what these girls have accomplished this year, from where we started to where we finished," Reznich quote. "The confidence they gained in themselves has been incredible."

Reznich will now have to live up to the bet with several of the seniors on the team before the season started.

"Maybe purple frosted tips or a little on the beard," senior Elle Rommell said, laughing.

Reznich's bet was if the girls reached the Breslin Center he would let them dye his har any color they choose.

That's the small win the players can look forward to in the off-season.

"They can do whatever they want," Reznich said, smiling.

Another win for the Frankfort basketball programs is less than a year ago, the boy's basketball program reached the Breslin Center, and now the girl's team can say the same. Players have dreamed of reaching it to East Lansing, and some have never gotten the chance.

VanTol has dreamed of playing at the Breslin Center since a child.

"To do it with this team this year means everything," VanTol said on playing at the Breslin Center. "We're all so close, and they're like a family to me."

Frankfort waited a decade to get a chance to return to Breslin after winning back-to-back state titles in 2006 and 2007 and then getting there again in the mid-2010s.

In the meantime, the talent level of girl's basketball in northern Michigan has sky-rocketed to where area schools are booking trips to East Lansing almost every year.

The Michigan High School Association Athletics switched the Final Four venue back to the Breslin Center in 2021 after a one-year stint at Van Noord Arena in Calvin College in 2019 and the 2020 postseason ended prematurely from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bellaire made it in 2021, but finished Division 4 runner-up. Glen Lake reached the Final Four in 2022, but lost and redeemed itself the following year with a Division 4 state title.

Lake City on Thursday booked their first trip to the Breslin Center but suffered a 52-39 loss to Niles Brandywine in the Division 3 Final Four.

"We're strong, we have a couple of things going on and can show we can compete with the big dogs downstate," Lake City head coach Bill Tisron said. "The talent is good, basketball is basketball and kids are loving the game. It's just getting that love and playing more."

Reznich has seen tons of basketball during his 22 years of coaching at Frankfort and contributed to the talent rising in northern Michigan girls' basketball to the competitiveness and the will to compete with the best schools.

"This year in particular, the Northwest Conference, every single game, it didn't matter who you were playing because if you weren't on your toes, you could get beat that night," Reznich said. "What a great conference to be a part of and especially this year, it helped us prepare for anything we might see in the postseason."

With the talent level growing, it has helped Frankfort return to the Final Four and has been a treat for the Frankfort community. Despite the outcome, the players are forever grateful for getting a chance to play in front of the Frankfort faithful.

"Frankfort is a special community with such great support," Reznich said. "I was receiving texts from Alaska and Mexico. So many people left town who have been following us throughout this whole tournament. It's been incredible."