ISHPEMING - After winning back-to-back district titles, the Ishpeming High School girls varsity basketball team is looking to add to that momentum this season.
"We're looking forward to competing for the Mid-Peninsula Conference (championship) this year," said veteran IHS head coach Mark Dellangelo, whose team went 8-15 overall and 4-8 in the Mid-Peninsula Conference in 2011-12.
"We have high expectations this year, but we know it won't come easy. It comes down to which team wants to work harder and do the little things it takes to win."
Ishpeming’s Gabby Croley works her way into the paint during a game in Gwinn last season. (Journal file photo)
Dellangelo's optimism is fueled by the fact he'll have four returning players back who started at one time or another last season: Jordann Grigg (5-4 senior guard); Alesha O'Brien (5-7 senior guard); and sisters Taylor Croley (5-9 senior forward/center) and Gabby Croley (5-7 junior forward/center).
"Jordann and Alesha provide quickness, toughness and scoring from the perimeter," Dellangelo said. "Taylor and Gabby provide the strength and rebounding needed from our post players.
"These girls worked hard last season. I expect them to set the bar and be leaders for the 2012-13 season."
Nov. 26 - Superior Central, 7:45 p.m.
Nov. 28 - Gwinn, 7:45 p.m.
Dec. 6 - Gladstone, 7:45 p.m.
Dec. 11 - At Westwood, 7:45 p.m.
Dec. 13 - At Escanaba, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 2 - At Gwinn
Jan. 3 - At Norway, 8 p.m.
Jan. 8 - At Superior Central, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 10 - At Iron Mountain, 7:45 p.m.
Jan. 14 - At L'Anse, 7:20 p.m.
Jan. 18 - Manistique, 7:45 p.m.
Jan. 21 - At Negaunee, 7:45 p.m.
Jan. 24 - Westwood, 7:45 p.m.
Jan. 28 - Iron Mountain, 7:45 p.m.
Feb. 5 - At Gladstone, 7:15 p.m.
Feb. 7 - Norway, 7:45 p.m.
Feb. 11 - L'Anse, 7:45 p.m.
Feb. 14 - Escanaba, 7:45 p.m.
Feb. 19 - At Manistique, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 21 - Negaunee, 7:45 p.m.
Among those new to the Ishpeming squad are juniors Courtney Allen, Zoe Beltrame, Mollie Pruett and Jaime Olson.
"Energy, effort and teamwork is what excites me about Courtney," Dellangelo said, "and Zoe ... will provide us with outside shooting and defensive toughness.
"Jaime is an excellent shooter from the outside and Mollie ... has the unique ability to get to the basket."
Expected to contribute this season as well are sophomores Kaylie Engler, Jessica Spencer and Tammy Simula.
"Kaylie ... has great instincts and court vision, and Jessica is a post player who will provide an added scoring touch," the coach said. "Tammy is a multi-dimensional player ... who's a hard worker willing to do what it takes to win."
Dellangelo noted the M-PC is "always difficult" and that his team will play a "difficult" non-conference schedule that includes Superior Central, Gladstone, Escanaba and L'Anse.
The Hematites will also play seven straight road games - four vs. league foes - between Dec. 11 and Jan. 14. But after that stretch, they have seven of their last 10 regular season games at home.
The IHS 2011-12 squad surprised a few people by knocking off Negaunee and Westwood for a MHSAA Class C district championship. Dellangelo said his current team won't be able to sneak up on anyone.
"As our program has made significant strides in the past few years, we have to realize teams will be bringing their best efforts against us," he said.
"We need to be ready for those challenges if we want to have a successful season."
Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251.