Mar. 31—BUCKLEY — David Schaub still plays the radio tape from Lake Leelanau St. Mary’s last regional final.
Now his grandson Dylan Barnowski will be able to as well — and it might not be his last.
Lake Leelanau St. Mary beat Ellsworth 76-59 in the Division 4 regional semifinal round at Buckley on Monday night. It’ll be the Eagles’ first boys basketball Sweet 16 appearance in 48 years.
Victory runs in the family. Schaub and Dan Kohler, who’s Shawn Bramer’s great uncle, played on the Eagles’ 1973 team that finished regional finalists.
“Every year he (Schaub) breaks out his old district tape. That’s kind of to get Dylan going and me as well,” said Eagles coach Matt Barnowski, who’s related to Schaub by a prior marriage. “This past year he couldn’t find it, so we listened to his regional final tapes. All radio call.”
Well this year’s regional final will be livestreamed (and in color).
“I think they’re just as excited as we are,” Dylan Barnowski said of Schaub and Kohler. “To do the same thing they did, I think it’s pretty exciting for them, and it’s exciting for us and the whole community just to see our little school go this far.”
St. Mary (14-4) meets Frankfort (16-5) after the Panthers beat McBain Northern Michigan Christian in the afternoon game 42-37.
The Eagles took took an 11-0 lead in the first three minutes of the game and never lost their lead to the Lancers. Ellsworth continued to show off its high-scoring offense throughout the night, but always faced at least a seven-point deficit even on an 8-0 run at the end of the first half.
St. Mary’s sophomore duo of Bramer and Dylan Barnowski almost outscored the Lancers themselves. Bramer led the floor with 33 points; Barnowski scored 25.
“We felt like we played a good game and we feel like we earned this right to be here,” Dylan Barnowski said.
The Lancers’ 6-foot-4 pair of Brayden Steenwyk and Jäeger Griswold each gave Ellsworth the size advantage Tuesday. However the Eagles managed to contain both on the defensive end with a six-footer of their own in Bramer.
Ellsworth coach Jarod Steenwyk, Brayden’s older brother, said size like that was just something the Lancers hadn’t seen so far this season.
“Give it to St. Mary; they came out ready to play and they took it to us,” Jarod Steenwyk said. “No. 32 (Bramer) is just a workhorse inside.”
Brayden Steenwyk and Kelan Pletcher led Ellsworth with 20 points each. Steenwyk scored five of the Lancers eight 3-pointers and Pletcher hit the other three.
Griswold attempted a bevy of outside shots, but only finished his statline with five points.
“No. 10 (Brayden Steenwyk) was very strong,” Bramer said. “We moved the ball well and I just got a few more rebounds to pull us back in there.”
Ellsworth finishes its season 15-2 after claiming its first district tile since 2009.
Jarod Steenwyk said he thinks the Lancers have an opportunity to return to regionals next year. The Lancers graduate Griswold and Evan Cary.
“First time in 12 years, I’m not going to take that for granted,” Jarod Steenwyk said. “Losing Jäeger is going to be big for us, but I also feel like we’re going to fill in and find the next guy to take that spot.”
If Frankfort lives and dies by the 3-point shot, the Panthers certainly came alive in the second half.
Frankfort rallied back from a 21-18 halftime deficit to hold McBain Northern Michigan Christian to one field goal for the majority of the second half while netting five triples to take the lead late in the third quarter and hold on for a win 42-37.
The Panthers shot 3-for-13 from beyond the arc in the first half, but finished making 5-of-10 in the second half.
“We knew it was going to be a grind out game,” said Frankfort coach Dan Loney. “We just stayed the course.”
Jack Stefanski (13 points), Blake Miller (10) and Xander Sauer (10) each finished with double-digit scoring.
“We know in the locker room coming out the half we’d like to come out hot,” Miller said. “When we come into the game like that and we’re not hitting shots, coach (Dan Loney) always tells us ‘Hey. Next one is falling in. You might might miss four in a row but the fifth one’s definitely in.'”
Both Frankfort’s boys and girls basketball programs will be vying for a state quarterfinals Wednesday and Thursday. The girls play Bellaire in the regional final at Traverse City Central after beating NMCS’ girls program in a second-half comeback of their own.
“It’s pretty nice to see,” Miller said. “It’s a little disappointing that we couldn’t go to as many games as we wanted to this year. I think it says a lot about Frankfort, our school, and our basketball program both boys and girls, that this is where we should be. And this is where we want to be every year.”
NMCS was led by Trevin Winkle with 17. Andrew Eisenga added 11 points. Winkle averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds this season, but didn’t quite match that against Frankfort.
“They play the pack-line defense,” NMCS coach Kyle Benthem said. “When the guy has the ball, they put everybody in the paint. We couldn’t hit shots. That’s the reason we didn’t hit field goals, because we couldn’t shoot around the rim. We couldn’t get to the rim because so many guys were at the bucket. When we did shoot three pointers, we had a lot of shots, but it didn’t fall.”
The Comets finishes their season 12-3 and graduate seniors Kendrick Smallegan, Eisenga and Nick Heuker.
Heuker and Eisenga are starters.
“Kendrick was a big part of our mentality as a team and keeping everybody up and positive, great leader,” Benthem said. “Andrew played as heart out tonight and had one of the best games of his career.”
Frankfort and Lake Leelanau St. Mary tip off at 7 p.m. Thursday back at Buckley.
The Panthers and Eagles played once before this season because St. Mary competes as an independent. The Eagles won 49-44 to rally back from a 18-2 Frankfort run in the first quarter.
“They are a different team now, we’re a different team now,” Dylan Barnowski of St. Mary said. “It’s going to be a good game.”
Whichever team advances meets the winner of Saginaw Nouvel (9-8) and Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart (18-1) at Houghton Lake the following Tuesday.
Follow Andrew Rosenthal on Twitter @ByAndrewR