Shrine Girls Basketball Advances to Division 3 Regional Final

Shrine rolls past Brown City to advance to D3 regional final
The Oakland Press/March 12, 2019

By Drew Ellis; @ellisdrew on Twitter

MARLETTE >> Last season, the Royal Oak Shrine girls basketball team reached the Class C regional final, only to see Detroit Edison on the other side of the bracket.

Edison was not only the eventual Class C state champ, but arguably the top team in the entire state.

This year, Edison is in Division 2 and Shrine now finds itself competing for a Division 3 regional championship after disposing of Brown City, 44-22, in Monday’s regional semifinal at Marlette High School. The Knights believe they can compete with any team left in D3.

“We are on a high right now and we are loving it,” Shrine senior Grace Murray said of the team’s confidence. “We believe in ourselves more than anybody else and that’s the most important thing right now. We know that if we stick together and play our way, the sky is the limit for us.”

The Knights (19-5) never trailed in the game as Hanna Groth knocked down a jumper on their opening possession and sparked an 11-2 start that was capped by a Murray 3-pointer.

Murray is just one of two seniors on the Shrine roster this season. The other, Grace Kruszewski, put up six points in the opening quarter to lead the Knights to a 13-6 advantage after one.

“Grace Kruszewski is the one that really sparked us early and she and Grace Murray really give us two, great senior leaders,” Shrine coach Wayne Gigante said. “Our two seniors were really the catalysts for us in this game.”

Murray took over in the second quarter, as she scored the first seven points of the frame to help the Knights build a double-digit lead going into halftime, 25-13.

“She’s a top kid,” Gigante said of Murray. “It doesn’t matter who we have played, Grace has been the best player on the floor in those games and she showed it again (Monday).”

The third quarter was all about Shrine’s defensive effort, as the Knights held Brown City (19-4) scoreless while putting up another eight points to put the game out of reach.

“We said this weekend that the better defensive team would win this game, and that was our focus,” Gigante said. “Our girls did a great job on defense of being aware and playing smart. They were ready for this game.”

Murray finished with a game-high 16 points. The senior has put up over 1,000 points for her career and has the Knights on the brink of their first regional championship since 1995.

“I knew I had to step up and be aggressive against their defense and drive and score or drive and kick,” Murray said of Monday’s performance. “I know when I play aggressively, that’s when our offense does best.”

Both Kruszewski and Allison LaPoint each scored eight for Shrine in the win while Regan Smith and Hannah Groth both had six.

Shrine advances to Wednesday’s regional final where it will face New Haven (20-3) at 7 p.m. from Marlette High School. The Knights aren’t being shy about their expectations for the week.

“We are expecting to win this regional,” Gigante said. “We still have to go out and play a good game on Wednesday, but that’s where we are at from a belief standpoint. The girls are confident and working hard. New Haven is an athletic and long team. They are going to be a challenge for us, but we believe that we can win if we play to our ability.”

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