2018-02-22 / Sports

Madness tips off at St. Francis Monday

Madness is just four days away.

That’s right, girls district basketball tournaments are slated to start Monday — and no one needs to remind coach Jim Champion, whose North Bay girls are in the midst of a 13-day layoff.

“We’re going bowling tomorrow,” Champion said Tuesday. “We’re waiting, wishing it was this week instead of next week. We’re anxious and ready to go. Can’t wait for it to get here.”

North Bay (10-10, 8-8 Northwest) enters an intriguing District 117 tournament as one of three teams expected to contend for a title. The team recently topped four-time-defending district champion Frankfort, earning a split of the season series. The Panthers have zero seniors on the roster this year.

Another senior-led Leelanau County team is Lake Leelanau St. Mary (13-2), which is primed to pounce on its first district championship since 2014.

St. Mary, which did not play Frankfort in the regular season, will take on North Bay in a neutral-site showdown Wednesday at 6 p.m. St. Mary won the previous meeting with North Bay in December, 52-42.

“We know better than to think they’re the same team they were then,” St. Mary coach Pete Finch said. “And with Frankfort hosting districts, well, it’s always comfortable to play in your own gym. Leland is young, but they’ve got an X-factor player in Olivia Lowe. Even as an opposing coach, she’s fun to watch. You’d better be ready to play two tough games to win this district.”

Leland (5-15, 3-13 Northwest), another up-and-coming team, will be tasked with playing the Panthers in the nightcap on Wednesday. Frankfort swept the Comets in Northwest Conference play, 72-35 at home and 65-38 in Leland. The Panthers will cap league play tonight against visiting Glen Lake (17-2, 13-2 Northwest).

The Lady Lakers, meanwhile, begin their postseason quest in the District 91 tournament on Monday as the No. 6 team in Class C. They’ll play at Traverse City St. Francis — where they stunned the Glads 50-44 a year ago. Glen Lake also won the only regular-season meeting this year, 52-43.

“They’re going to bring everything they’ve got for us on Monday,” Lakers coach Jason Bradford said. “We’ve got to put a good ballgame together.”

The winner will play Manton or Grand Traverse Academy in the tournament title game at 7 p.m. Friday.

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