Jan. 25—TRAVERSE CITY — Traverse City St. Francis girls basketball had a weeklong break and still went out and played with passion.
St. Francis dedicated Tuesday's home game against Boyne City to the late Katie Heintz, who passed away after a battle with leukemia in 2005. The Gladiators honored her the best way possible, by extending their winning streak to six straight games with a 45-28 victory over the Ramblers.
Heintz was on the Gladiators' roster at the time of her passing, and St. Francis continues to honor her legacy.
"Humble," St. Francis head coach Adam Warren said on dedicating the game to her. "Just remember all those things that person demonstrated and cared for others. I just pause and think about that, and Sophie (Hardy) was a perfect representative."
Senior Sophie Hardy was chosen to wear Heintz's No. 32 jersey in honor of her because she embodies everything that Heintz was.
While No. 32 isn't officially retired, no one has worn No. 32 since Heintz's passing until Tuesday night.
Hardy wasn't born when Heintz was alive, but her family has been close to the Heintz family. In fact, Hardy's middle name is Katie.
"When I was born, I knew her of her," Hardy said. "I knew about her from my family, and she's been someone that I've been inspired by since being born. She's an inspiring person."
Hardy finished the game with four points, two assists, a steal and a rebound.
Hardy and her teammates played with honor on Tuesday but had a slow start. After a week off, the Gladiators (9-1, 6-1 Lake Michigan) fell into a 5-0 hole early in the first quarter against Boyne (2-12, 1-7 Lake Michigan).
The Ramblers' full-court trap was challenging for the Gladiators to get a handle on. St. Francis turned it over multiple times before Warren called their first timeout to settle down.
St. Francis didn't score its first basket until two minutes remaining, but both teams started slow as the first quarter ended in a 5-5 tie.
"A lot of it is settling down. I started five juniors to get them under fire and to get them used to the situation," Warren said. "We were a little rattled, so we brought in the seniors to settle them down a bit. But once we got into rhythm, they played like themselves again."
The Gladiators turned it on the rest of the way, however, with senior Maggie Napont leading the way. Despite the presence of Rambler senior center Morgan Deming guarding the inside, St. Francis still drove it into the hole.
The turnovers for the Ramblers began to pile on as the game progressed. St. Francis had as much as a 12-point lead in the third, but Boyne City still had a presence inside with Deming leading the way that helped chip away at the deficit.
Deming racked up six of the nine points scored in the third, but it wouldn't be enough as St. Francis held to her zero points in the fourth quarter. Deming finished with a team-high 10 points.
"I like that (Morgan) was more aggressive out of our press in the backline," Boyne City head coach Adam Stefanski said. "She was active with her hands and was confident when she got the ball in her hands, which is sometimes a struggle for her. When she is confident and just plays the game, she is successful."
Warren noted that it was a team effort to pull out a victory.
"When you've got 10 girls that can be dangerous, it's going to be tough for other teams to do what they did tonight as far as trying to shut two of them down because we got eight others that will step up," he said.
Napont finished with a team-high 16 points, two assists, three rebounds and four steals. Allee Shepherd finished with six points, two assists, two rebounds and two steals. Gwyneth Bramer, Helen Myler and Hunter St. Peter combined for 12 points.
The Gladiators next battle for Lake Michigan Conference lead against first-place Harbor Springs at home Thursday.
"We're about to go into a tough stretch where we're going to have multiple weeks where we are playing three games," Warren said. "We're going to be away for a lot of those games, so we're going to be getting into a rhythm here."
The Ramblers travel to Elk Rapids on Thursday.