EAST LANSING—When junior rose from the table after her team's, 65-54, loss to St. Ignace High in the Class C finals Saturday afternoon at the Breslin Center, she smiled.
"We'll be back," she said. "We'll be back."
For the better part of three quarters, the Lady Knights played the favored Saints tough, trailing 44-43 heading into the fourth quarter after being knotted at 28 at halftime.
"I'll tell you what, that was a great effort," Liggett coach Wayne Gigante said. "We played with six kids this whole game, and we pressured and pressured and pressured for 32 minutes this whole game—with six kids. I think we just got worn down a little bit. I really do."
The fatigue was obvious during the closing quarter, as St. Ignace outscored Liggett, 21-11, to secure the victory.
Saints senior, Nicole Elmblad, was spectacular, particularly in the final eight minutes of the contest, scoring 11 of her game-high 33 points in the fourth quarter—most after Liggett sophomore Haleigh Ristovski fouled out of the game.
Haleigh drew the assignment of covering University of Wisconsin-bound Elmblad—a duty she performed admirably, holding the standout senior to just 6-of-23 shooting through the opening three quarters.
"I thought Haleigh did a great job," Gigante said. "I mean, this is a sophomore guarding the Class C Player of the Year. I thought (Haleigh) was tremendous."
Sister and teammate Madison Ristovski agreed.
"Haleigh said to me that her goal was to shut Nicole down," Madison said. "And to be honest, I though she did as much as she could. Nicole is a very good player, she's very skilled."
The battle between the two Class C superstars—Elmblad and Madison Ristovski—was part of the game's appeal, and in the end, both carried their respective squads.
Elmblad finished with 33 points and 19 rebounds, while Madison Ristovski poured in 30 points and added five rebounds and five assists.
"Madison is a great player," Elmblad said. "I have so much respect for her and for her game."
The difference in the contest, however, was depth. St. Ignace went nine deep, while the Lady Knights went with a six-girl rotation.
"I think we just wore them down," Saints coach Dorene Ingalls said. "Our stamina and depth really came through in the end."
The Knights' postseason run was certainly not unexpected, but, given the fact that the team returns all but one senior next season, Madison's prediction of a return trip might have merit.