When Posen girls basketball coach Karl Momrik looked at his team's schedule at the beginning of the year and looked at the postseason brackets, all signs seemed to point toward a regional final matchup with St. Ignace.
"It almost seemed like it was inevitable. We thought there was a strong possibility," Momrik said.
That possibility has now become reality as the two teams will tip off against each other tonight in a regional final at 7 p.m. at Gaylord High School.
For whichever team loses tonight, two things will happen. That team's season will be over and tonight's game will be its only loss of the year.
That's because of the nearly 200 Class D teams in the state, Posen and St. Ignace are the only two that have yet to lose a game and enter tonight's contest with identical 23-0 records.
For the past several seasons, Posen has been the team to beat in Northeast Michigan, but against the Saints, the Vikings will have a true test. St. Ignace is two years removed from a Class C state title and has made five appearances in the finals since 1999, winning three titles.
Class D regional final
Posen (23-0) vs. St. Ignace (23-0)
7 p.m. tonight Gaylord High School
How they got there:
W Hillman 70-29W Mackinaw City 94-27
W Rogers City 58-31W Mackinac Island 92-16
W Pellston 69-23W Pickford 67-23
The Saints' accomplishments aren't lost on Momrik, who knows his team will have to play at the highest level possible if the Vikings want to capture the school's first regional title.
"It's going to take 32 minutes of 'A' game. You can't have let-ups against that team or you'll get buried," Momrik said. "They exemplify what Upper Peninsula basketball is all about and they're the epitome of what a program is supposed to be."
Since dropping down to Class D this season, the Saints have been ranked at the top of the Class D AP poll all season and haven't ever seemed to slow down. St. Ignace has won three playoff games by an average of 62 points and boasts incredible depth on a team that has only two seniors. The Saints' formidable front court features 5-11 Sarah Culip and 5-10 Kelley Wright and St. Ignace also has a 6-0 center in sophomore Sarah Smith to come off the bench. St. Ignace's depth was on full display in Tuesday's regional semifinal win over Pickford when sophomore guard Margo Brown sank four three-pointers in the first half.
That depth should come in handy against Posen's 6-1 junior center Korynn Hincka, who has an admirer in St. Ignace coach Dorene Ingalls.
"I love watching Hincka play. It's a thing of beauty watching the way she moves on the floor and what she's able to do," Ingalls said. "Players like that, they're going to get theirs, but we need to minimize her extra attempts and put more pressure on the guards."
Momrik said his team will have to play smart and limit its mistakes to avoid falling into the Saints' upstyle tempo of play. He acknowledged that Hincka will be asked to do a lot, but when the opportunities are there to score, the ball will be in the hands of the best player on the floor, whether it's Hincka, Bev Bednarski, Anna Couture, Ashley Meyers or someone else.
Posen reached the regional final last season and lost to Gaylord St. Mary. One thing that will help is that several of the Vikings' players who were just getting their first taste of postseason play last year will be more experienced this time around.
"This is a special group of kids," Momrik said. "We don't play scared. We don't fear losing and that's a good thing. We expect them to play the game of their lives."
On the other end of things, St. Ignace is hoping to make another trip to East Lansing after falling to eventual Class C champion Morley-Stanwood in the semifinals last year. Nearly all of the players on the St. Ignace roster were in junior high the last time the Saints won the title and they're eager to hoist a trophy of their own.
" Kids come in at a young age and they have those dreams and they want to make that happen," Ingalls said. "We're hoping to get some of the younger players they're first Breslin Center appearance."
Tonight's winner advances to a quarterfinal on Tuesday in Escanaba against either Powers North Central or Crystal Falls Forest Park.