2017-02-16 / Sports

Northport girls end 41-year title drought

By Jay Bushen
Of The Enterprise staff


NORTHPORT PLAYERS Manmeet Dhami (12) and Joan Ogemaw (25) embrace after the Lady Wildcats clinched the Cherryland Conference championship with a 23-18 victory over visiting St. Mary last Thursday. NORTHPORT PLAYERS Manmeet Dhami (12) and Joan Ogemaw (25) embrace after the Lady Wildcats clinched the Cherryland Conference championship with a 23-18 victory over visiting St. Mary last Thursday. For the first time since 1976, the Northport girls are champions of the Cherryland Conference.

A pair of free throws from Sarah Reynolds and a layup from Joan Ogemaw in the closing stages of Thursday’s showdown with St. Mary lifted the Lady Wildcats to a 23-18 victory and their second conference crown in program history.

Northport’s lone senior, Manmeet Dhami, could hardly hold back tears as the final seconds ticked away.

“This is the greatest thing they could ever give me in my last year,” Dhami said of her teammates. “We’re one big family. We’ve spent so much time together and we know our weaknesses and strengths. I love them so much.”

The Lady Wildcats (12-3, 3-0 Cherryland) have come a long way since their six-win season in 2015-16.

St. Mary coach Pete Finch credits Casey Wilcox for the turnaround.

“I just want to commend Casey Wilcox for putting together a great season and a great team,” Finch said. “She deserves credit for pulling that team together, putting together a gameplan and getting a belief to execute it. They deserved it. They played a great game, and I thought it was important for the girls to see her there. ... Those girls would run through a wall for her.”

Wilcox guided the Lady Wildcats to a 9-1 start this season before stepping down on Jan. 20 to pursue a career in the school insurance industry.

Interim coach Leon Chimosky also made mention of Wilcox’s impact.

“Casey had them real geared up for me,” Chimosky said.

Both coaches were on the bench against the Lady Eagles (11-4, 2-2 Cherryland), who struggled to make plays against Northport’s 2-3 zone.

St. Mary forced 20 turnovers in the loss but, uncharacteristically, couldn’t convert those turnovers into points on the other end.

“Our girls came to play,” Finch said. “We struggled on offense and their effort on defense had a lot to do with it, so I’m proud of our girls.”

Ogemaw, Leelanau County’s leading scorer, finished with 10 points and five rebounds.

She followed up the performance with a season-high 21 points in a 45-44 win over visiting Alanson on Monday. Reynolds added 11 points in the win.

The Lady Wildcats will look for their fourth straight victory tonight when they travel to take on Alba.

St. Mary, meanwhile, will try to bounce back at Leland on Monday.

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