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Frankfort's magic run ends in semifinals; Panthers 1st playoff team to score 30 on Kingston's suffocating defense

Mar. 21—EAST LANSING — Frankfort's magical run came to a halt Thursday.

Frankfort players getting hair braided in stands during Ishpeming-Fowler game.

No. 2-ranked Kingston (27-1) knocked off Frankfort 56-33 in Thursday's Division 4 girls basketball state semifinals at the Breslin Student Events Center on the campus of Michigan State University to set up a matchup between the division's two top-ranked teams in Saturday's title tilt.

"It's been a tough road," Frankfort 22nd-year head coach Tim Reznich said. "We've had some great games over the last few weeks. I know I'm absolutely exhausted. I can't imagine what these girls feel and how their bodies feel. They have to be exhausted. But I'm so proud of what these girls have accomplished this year, from where we started out to where we finished."

The Panthers started the season 1-2, then ended up amassing 22 victories.

No. 1 Ispheming (27-1) routed No. 6 Fowler (24-4) by a 75-40 score in the day's first Division 4 semifinal, leading 42-19 by halftime and cruising from there.

Only seven opponents reached 30 points against the Cardinal defense this season, with eight failing to hit 20 and two not even reaching 10. No prior playoff opponent this season scored more than 26.

No. 16-ranked Frankfort (22-6) became the first team to break the 30-point mark this postseason against Kingston.

"It's the dirty work, the hard work," said Kingston head coach Jay Green, a 1993 Michigan State grad. "It's hard to play defense. You have to put the effort in. This is a longer court and, hey, we were getting tired and I'm certain they were also."

It's the second year in a row a Frankfort basketball team played in the Final Four, after the Panther boys made a run to Breslin in 2023. The Frankfort girls made runs to Breslin four times in Reznich's 22 seasons, including back-to-back state titles in 2005 and 2006.

"It's very special to our community," Reznich said. "We have such great community support. I was receiving texts from Alaska, Mexico, all over the place. It's spring break and so we're going to get that. But as many people that are left in town, they're coming follow us throughout this whole tournament. It's been incredible the crowd support we've had. The girls feed off it. We just love it."

Counting only the first, third and fourth quarters, Frankfort would have been down only two, but a commanding second quarter put Kingston in control. The Cardinals outscored the Panthers 24-4 across that eight minutes.

Frankfort led 6-0 four minutes into the game before Kingston got on track. The Cardinals took a 9-8 lead on an Abby Walker bucket before back-to-back scores by Addie Jarosz and Savina Anhalt.

Kingston reeled off a 26-2 run until Ella Sweeney scored just before the horn as the Cardinals led 35-16 at halftime and extended that lead to 48-25 after three.

"Not against a great team like Frankfort," Green said when asked if his team had a second quarter like that this season. "That was something else."

The Panthers led 12-11 after one quarter, and managed to hold Kingston leading scorer Delaney St. George off the scoreboard until the final three minutes of the first half, but she scored seven in the final 2:42. St. George came into the game with more 3-pointers this season (84) than Frankfort's entire roster (57).

"Had a little bit of a slow start there," Green said. "But we just stuck with it. Relentless is probably the best way to describe what happened tonight. Our effort, defense, we were relentless. We started to wear Frankfort down as time went on."

Anhalt led the Panthers with nine points, five rebounds and three blocks. Evelyn VanTol scored eight and Kylee Harris scored eight to go with five assists.

Molly Walker paced Kingston with 22 points, while St. George ended with 11, Abby Walker 10, Gracy Walker eight and Zoe van Rijn grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds.

Elle Rommell, one of three team captains along with VanTol and Harris, dressed and participated in warmups with a big knee brace on her right leg after suffering a completely torn ACL a month ago against Buckley.

"It was incredible," Rommell said. "I absolutely loved playing at the Breslin. I just wanted to be part of the team one more time. I wanted to do the warmups, the run outs, everything I could. I absolutely love my team this year. This is the favorite team I've ever been part of. We really had something special this year. I just wanted to be part of it one more time."

Rommell didn't play, but was one of three seniors Reznich brought to the postgame press conference, along with VanTol and Harris.

"Really, this is this is half of the varsity team that you see in front of you," Reznich said. "We have six true varsity players this year. Then we ended with five when Elle went down."

Kingston outrebounded Frankfort 33-18 and won the turnover battle 17-10. The Cardinals won 12 consecutive Stars Division titles in the North Central Thumb League.

Frankfort graduates four seniors, VanTol, Harris, Rommell and Keiara Pettengill, but return starters in sophomore forward Jarosz, junior forward Anhalt and sophomore guard Willa Roth, who stepped into the starting five when Rommell was hurt and had two points, two rebounds and two assists.

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