ISHPEMING - No doubt still savoring Ishpeming High School's state football championship, members of the Hematites' girls basketball team knew they had to turn their attention to visiting Gwinn on Wednesday night.
They did just that, beating the Modeltowners 49-30 in the season-opening and initial Mid-Peninsula Conference game for both teams.
"(My girls) came out to play tonight. They put the pedal to the medal and never let up," IHS head coach Mark Dellangelo said. "The girls were tough from the get-go.
Ishpeming’s Jessica Spencer goes for a layup during a Mid-Peninsula Conference contest against Gwinn at Ishpeming High School on Wednesday. (Journal photo by Matt Keiser)
"Anytime we can start the season with a win, especially a conference win, I'll take it."
Sophomore forward Jessica Spencer led the way for the Hematites with game-highs of 15 points and 11 rebounds. Teammate Gabby Croley added nine points, and Alesha O'Brien and Jordann Grigg chipped in eight apiece.
IHS roared out to a 7-0 lead, held a 24-14 halftime advantage and then never looked back against a Gwinn team missing three potential starters - Morgan Bruce, Paige Vincent and Shelby Talsma - due to injuries.
"It's tough to start the season without three key players," first-year Gwinn coach Ben Olsen said. "And (sophomore guard) Ellie Olsen (no relation to the coach) is one of our top offensive players and she drew two fouls early.
"We're a different team when she's not in there."
Behind three points by O'Brien, the Hematites took that seven-point lead in the first 2:10 of play to gain some confidence early.
"We came out with a bang," Grigg said. "We came back to practice right away (after the memorable football weekend) and got back to work.
"We were all focused."
IHS took a 21-9 lead in the second quarter on two free throws by Kaylie Engler, then led 40-19 heading into the fourth with the help of a late 11-0 run behind five points by Croley and four by Spencer.
"We rebounded well, passed well and showed a lot of patience (on offense)," Grigg said.
Added Dellangelo: "We've been stressing defense a lot in practice and also winning the rebound battle. One of our goals is to block out and rebound."
Both the Hematites and Modeltowners hauled down 32 boards apiece, with Lydia Asplund topping GHS with seven.
With Jordyn Hutchens notching five of her team-high nine points, Gwinn outscored Ishpeming 11-9 in the final quarter.
"We have a way to go offensively (though)," Ben Olsen said. "There was a lot of standing around, but it's a new system ... and we'll have a big learning curve."
GHS finished with 29 turnovers - 18 in the first half - while the Hematites suffered 19.
The Modeltowners won the junior varsity game, 50-40.
Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251.