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Western High School basketball player Lilli Luma (23) scored 15 points in the Panthers’ Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 2 state semifinal game at Van Andel Arena on Wednesday. Photos by Jeff Steers, JTV Sports.

By Jeff Steers
JTV Sports

(April 7, 2021 10:02 PM) The Western High School girls’ varsity basketball team had the saying “unfinished business” on their warmups this season.

Next year the mantra may be “one more step.”

Western lost 45-38 to Portland High School in the Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 2 state semifinals at Van Andel Arena on Wednesday afternoon. The Panthers end the season with an 18-5 record and the school’s first regional title in girls’ basketball.

Last year the Panthers were cut short of playing in the regional final by a couple of hours when COVID-19 restrictions closed down the season.

“We were just blessed to be able to make it this far,” WHS Coach Gina Fortress said. “Our goal was to win the regional title, so every game after that was a great experience for us.

“Last year we felt like we were robbed.”

The Panthers looked like they may steal a win from Portland on Wednesday afternoon. Portland led most of the game, but Western pulled ahead 38-37 with just over four minutes remaining in the contest.

“Getting to the state finals is something we wanted to accomplish since sixth grade,” WHS player Alyna Lewis said. “This is something we plan to accomplish next year.”

Lewis and a group of juniors have been playing basketball together since fourth grade. The bond – and having five juniors starting for the Panthers – has been strong all season.

“We got the nerves out … now we are ready for next year,” Fortress said.

The Panthers looked a little nervous in the first quarter, missing a number of layups against Portland. The Panthers trailed 10-9 at the end of the first quarter, and 25-21 at halftime.

Juniors Lilli Luma and Riley Kubiak scored nine of the Panthers’ 11 points in the third quarter, pulling even with Portland at 32-all at the end of the quarter.

Portland scored the first five points of the fourth quarter, but Western battled back taking a 38-37 lead at the 4:29 mark on a basket by Alyssa Gennety. But that would be it for the scoring as Portland scored the final eight points of the game for the win.

Luma was the star for Western with 15 points and nine rebounds. Reece Hitt scored seven points, Lewis tallied six points and pulled down seven rebounds, and Kubiak finished with four points and eight rebounds for Western.

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