In Play with Tom Markowski

Clara Loukus leads Calumet into its first state final with a 30-26 victory over Laingsburg in Class C semifinal

Basketball   | Tom Markowski

Clara Loukus leads Calumet into its first state final with a 30-26 victory over Laingsburg in Class C semifinal

East Lansing – Clara Loukus of Calumet seized the moment and executed three different plays flawlessly propelling her team to the state finals.

Loukus made two 3-pointers in the second half, her steal led to her two free throws with 8.9 seconds left and unranked Calumet upset No. 3-ranked Laingsburg (26-1) 30-26 in a Class C semifinal on Thursday at the Breslin Center.

Calumet (23-2) will make its first state-final appearance on Saturday when it plays No. 5-ranked Flint Hamady (25-1) at 4 p.m. Hamady upset top-ranked Ypsilanti Arbor Prep, 50-46, in the other semifinal.

“This being our first rodeo,” Calumet coach Jeff Twardzik said in the interview room. “I’ll try to get this right. Clara makes our team click.

“Laingsburg, as good as they are, we were able to wear them down. The matchups at the end were the ones we wanted. We actually like to sub more.”

The most important substitution Twardzik made involved a family member. His daughter, Ellen, started the game at the post positon but soon Twardzik went to 6-2 junior Janie Torola at that spot. Torola is four inches taller than Twardzik and she was effective in limiting Laingsburg’s success going to the basket.

“(Ellen) understands the situation,” Twardzik said. “The most important thing is she’s my daughter. But out there I’m her coach.”  

Both teams struggled offensively but Calumet got into a rhythm late in the third quarter. The Copper King missed their first 11 3-point attempts before Loukus made one from the top of the key to pull Calumet to within 20-19 with 1:16.

Less than a minute later Calumet took its first lead, 21-20, on a basket by Janie Torola. Off guard Alexa Anderson drove the baseline on the play and made a swift pass to Torola.

Lindsey Smith’s 3-pointer with four seconds left gave Laingsburg a 23-21 lead after the third quarter.

Calumet scored the first seven points of the fourth, the last three on Loukus’ 3-pointer with 2:59 remaining.

Laingsburg, which was gunning for its first state final appearance, was held scoreless in the quarter until Sophie Wilsey made a long 3-pointer from the top of the key to pull Laingsburg to within 28-26 with 1:24 left.

The Wolfpack gained possession with 20 seconds left and coach Doug Hurst tried to counter what Calumet was accomplishing defensively.

“We normally come off our screens high,” he said. “And they were looking for that on an earlier possession. The next time we were looking for the back door play.”

So was Loukus.

“As soon as I saw the ball I stepped in (the lane) and got it,” Loukus said. “I had this vision that they were going to throw it away.

“I had the jitters the whole time. I couldn’t sleep all week. After the first half I got into a rhythm. I had the whole team behind me.”    

Laingsburg led 16-14 at halftime despite committing 14 turnovers. It held a 14-10 edge in rebounds and made half of its 10 field goal tries.

Calumet had 11 more attempts from the field but made just six. The Copper Kings, with Loukus running the point, had a number of open shots but had trouble finishing.

Loukus had 10 points and five steals to lead Calumet. Torola added seven points and nine rebounds, and Alexis Rowe had seven points.

Wilsey’s eight points topped Laingsburg.