GLADSTONE - Both the Gladstone Braves and Negaunee Miners were playing their second game back-to-back Wednesday night. The last thing some fans may have expected was a dogfight, but that's exactly what they got.
"It was a battle, but we expected that," said Miners coach Brandon Sager.
It came right down to the wire, but offensive rebounding and nearly flawless free throw shooting from Negaunee allowed them to prevail with the 53-49 non-conference victory.
Early in the fourth quarter it was all knotted up at 38, but with interior penetration from Negaunee's Taylor Wilber and Jordyn LaFreniere in addition to some clutch free throws, the Miners were able to push ahead to a 49-43 lead.
However, the Braves had one last rally in them. Sophomore Lexi Hongisto raised up for a 3-pointer, and was fouled on the shot. The 3 fell and so did the free throw, bringing Gladstone within two with plenty of time remaining in the contest.
The Braves were on the verge of a potential upset, but the Miners would come up with an answer.
With a pair of free throws from Rosalie Anderson and a huge jump shot from LaFreniere that came on a missed defensive assignment, Negaunee boosted themselves to the win.
"(The Miners) took care of the ball and they made their free throws," said Braves coach Karl Dollhopf. "They did a really good job and they were patient. They are a solid team that knows what they want to do."
Gladstone (9-8) had a few opportunities, but couldn't find enough buckets to pull off the comeback. Negaunee also had plenty of second-chance opportunities with all the offensive rebounds it pulled down.
"Any time we can out-rebound our opponent, it gives us a good chance to win," Sager said.
Jess Beaudry got the offense going early for Gladstone, scoring 10 of her team's 12 first quarter points. She finished with a career-high 23 points and eight rebounds.
"Beaudry had a heck of a game," Sager said. "We couldn't stop her. We tried three or four different people, but it was just a great performance by her."
LaFreniere paced the Miners with 15 points. She was followed by Kayla Hakala, who had 11 points that included three triples.
Gladstone, which won the JV game 50-34, resumes Saturday at Sault High, while Negaunee (14-3) resumes Friday at Westwood. A win there would allow the Miners to clinch the Mid-Peninsula Conference title.