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Gaels sweep Firebirds, return to NSCHSAA finals

St. Mary’s Head Coach Tom Flynn had a misson for his team in their third meeting against their league rival Kellenberg Firebirds this season: Stop Candace Belvedere.

“That gives me one less thing to yell at them about,” Coach Flynn joked after realizing Belvedere was held to five points and only one field goal in the Gaels’ 51-40 win over Kellenberg in the NSCHSAA semi-finals. “But that was part of our game plan; [Belvedere] had 23 and 19 against us last game.”

Putting the ball in the basket was another story – The Gaels’ struggled to score at times. But when the defense is alive you’re more likely to live another round. Nonetheless, it wasn’t always that easy against a team that had St. Mary’s idiosyncrasies in recent memory.

With the Kellenberg losing by 37 points in the first meeting and 12 in the second, the Firebirds set the tone for a third game charm behind the play of guard Kaitlyn Stockpole. The senior helped kick Kellenberg out to a 9-6 start late in the first quarter, but two quick fouls and an energy spurt from Gaels point guard Mei-Lyn Bautista closed the gap by first quarter’s end.

Miscommunication, missed chip shots and tight, solid defense on Belvedere from Gaels’ junior center, Charlotte Renker (8 points), allowed St. Mary’s to go on a quick 9-0 run, capped by an inside bucket from junior forward, Jordan Augustus. The Firebirds would fire back again, as senior guard, Stacey Madelmayer, converted on the break to make it a 21-17 game. Ultimately, the run would fizzle and St. Mary’s would end the half on a 5-0 run to make it a nine point game going into the locker room.

The tune didn’t change much in the second half. Even with Belvedere under lock and key, Stockpole (who scored a game high 20 points) and junior wing, Lindsey Ehrhardt (8 points) would help the Firebirds trade runs. Ehrhardt made it a five point game, 32-27, with 2:45 left in the third quarter and Stockpole cut a double digit lead back to seven, 44-37, mid-way through the fourth, but ultimately, the Firebirds would hover and not threaten. Augustus (18 points, 15 rebounds, 6 steals) and Bautista (14 points, 7 assists) helped seal the game when only experience could make the difference.

“[Bautista and Augustus] are big time, Division I-bound players,” said Coach Flynn. “That’s what they need to do.”

Unsatisfied with the details but obviously happy with the results, Coach Flynn’s main focus is a title game against St. Anthony’s, who sent the Gaels home in last year’s championship.

“People don’t ask by how many [points], they just ask how,” he said. “Now we have another chance to play for a championship.”


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