GWINN - It looked like the basketball had a slow leak in it Wednesday night in Gwinn.
Never a big offensive game, scoring dropped as the Mid-Peninsula Conference girls game progressed before Gwinn pulled out a 38-32 victory over visiting Ishpeming.
In the fourth quarter, Ishpeming "outscored" Gwinn 4-2, but the Modeltowners had built enough of an advantage to improve to 2-5 overall and 2-1 in the Mid-Peninsula Conference.
Gwinn’s Jordyn Hutchens dribbles down the floor against Ishpeming in the third quarter at Gwinn High School on Wednesday. (Journal photo by Matt Keiser)
None of it bothered winning coach Ben Olsen.
"We did take a little bit of air out of the ball in the fourth quarter, but I think it was mainly because how effective our 2-3 zone (defense) was then," the first-year coach said. "We showed it some in the first half, but it worked so well we kept with it for the fourth quarter."
After a relatively typical scoring first half that saw Ishpeming ahead 24-22, the Hematites (3-3, 2-1) scored just four points in each period after halftime. Gwinn went ahead 36-28 after three quarters.
"We just tried to take care of the ball in the fourth," Olsen said. "Ishpeming was trying to move the ball around the perimeter and look for a quality shot. They were patient, but I think our zone really flustered them."
Much to his delight.
"We've finally found an identity," Olsen said. "I feel like everything came together tonight."
Part of it was working two of his top players back into the lineup since they started the season late following offseason injuries.
Junior Shelby Talsma, a 6-foot-3 center, was playing in her second game, while senior Morgan Bruce, a 5-10 forward-center, was in her third.
"Especially when we have Shelby in there, the zone works," Olsen said, "and we found it worked even when she wasn't in there."
Ishpeming was up by what Olsen estimated was 22-13 midway through the second quarter before the Modeltowners made a late rush to close the gap.
"Both teams were playing more pressure, and it just happened that we got some steals and converted them," Olsen said.
It didn't hurt that two of his sophomore guards, Ellie Olsen and Jordyn Hutchens, found their touch in the late run, combining for a trio of 3-pointers, two by Olsen.
Olsen finished with a game-high 14 points, while Ishpeming sophomore forward Jessica Spencer paced her team with 11.
Each grabbed a game-high eight rebounds, though GHS held a 37-24 overall advantage on the boards as Bruce and senior teammates Lydia Asplund and Megan McGuire each hauled in seven boards.
Gwinn also won the JV game, 42-31.