ULS girls hoops finishes as Class C state runner-up, makes school history

By: Sue Teggart | Grosse Pointe Times | Published March 23, 2011

 Liggett junior Madison Ristovski looks past St. Ignace senior Grace Wheeler for a pass during their March 19 Class C state final. Liggett finished as state runner-up after a 65-54 decision.

Liggett junior Madison Ristovski looks past St. Ignace senior Grace Wheeler for a pass during their March 19 Class C state final. Liggett finished as state runner-up after a 65-54 decision.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

EAST LANSING — Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett coach Wayne Gigante knew it wasn’t going to be easy.

Despite handily beating Sand Creek 49-29 in the March 17 Class C semifinal, St. Ignace was a whole other machine. In its semifinal, St. Ignace — the 2010 state runner-up — avenged last year’s double-overtime state finals loss to Flint Hamady with a 62-55 victory.

In the March 19 Class C state final, the Saints’ depth made the difference down the stretch, ending Liggett’s season in a 65-54 decision.

“Before this game, I think a lot of people thought we would have a hard time with this team, and we did,” Liggett coach Wayne Gigante said about the matchup. “But I’ll tell you, it was a great effort.”

“We went with six kids this whole game,” Gigante continued. “We pressured and pressured for 32 minutes with six kids, and we still had a chance to win that game.

“I think we just got worn down a little bit. They made plays, and that was the game.”

“It was tiring,” junior Madison Ristovski said. “Playing with six kids only is ridiculous. We came out with so much intensity that towards the end, we were just wore out.”

The youthful Knights (25-1), with only one senior on the team in Grace Edmonds, rode the sister tandem of Madison and sophomore Haleigh Ristovski to their first appearance in school history in a championship game.

Madison carried Liggett on her back, leading the way with 30 points and playing all 32 minutes. She added five assists and was 3-of-4 from 3-point range.

With six minutes left in the contest, Liggett lost one of its weapons when Haleigh, who was given the unenviable assignment of defending senior Nicole Elmblad, the Saints’ go-to player, fouled out.

“I depend on Haleigh a lot during the game,” Madison said about her sister. “We always look for each other. I tried not to think about it too much and said to myself, ‘I’m going to get to the basket now or dish it off for an easy lay-up.’”

Haleigh held Elmblad to 6-of-23 shooting before exiting the game.

“I knew she was left-handed, so I knew to force her right,” Haleigh said about Elmblad. “She was a better dribbler than we all thought. She knew how to play. She was very skilled.”

“We thought we had her,” Gigante said about Elmblad. “Haleigh is a sophomore guarding the Class C Player of the Year, and I thought she did tremendous.”

Madison and Elmblad set MHSAA individual records by scoring a minimum of 30 points in a game with 30 and 33 points, respectively.

Liggett entered the final on a 22-game winning streak. It’s only blemish prior to the final came in the second game of the season to Romulus High 59-51.

En route to the final, the Knights captured their first regional title since 1966, their second straight district title and the Michigan Independent Athletic Conference title at 12-0.