NEGAUNEE - Shoot 54 percent from the field and more likely than not, you'll win a prep girls basketball game.
Ishpeming did just that Wednesday, sinking 25 of 46 shots en route to a 68-49 MHSAA Class C district tournament victory over Gwinn at Negaunee's Lakeview Memorial Gymnasium.
Coach Mark Dellangelo's Hematites, now 15-6 on the season, will take on host Negaunee at 7 p.m. Friday for the district crown. The Miners (16-5) beat Westwood Wednesday night, 69-53.
Ishpeming’s Kaylie Engler drives to the hoop as Gwinn’s Morgan Rbuce tries to defend her during the fourth quarter of an?MHSAA Class C district semifinal game Wednesday at Lakeview Memorial Gymnasium in?Negaunee. (Journal photo by Matt Keiser)
Ishpeming, penetrating the Modeltowners' interior defense almost at will, notched their highest one-game point total of the season.
"We knew we had to spread (Gwinn's defense) out," Dellangelo said. "It clicked for us. I can't say enough about how we finished around the basket."
Jessica Spencer led the Hematites' offensive onslaught with 19 points. Tammy Simula added 13 and Kaylie Engler contributed 11.
"Give Ishpeming a ton of credit, but we didn't play well defensively," Gwinn head coach Ben Olsen said. "We allowed way too much dribble penetration.
"They found a weakness and exposed us."
Sophomore guard-forward Ellie Olsen (no relation to the coach) fired in 25 points and teammate Lydia Asplund 10 for Gwinn (7-13).
"Ellie had a phenomenal performance in our biggest game of the season," Ben Olsen said.
The Modeltowners, on an Emily Olsen triple, led 9-4 in the first quarter before Ishpeming rallied to take a 12-11 advantage into the second. Spencer scored six points in the first eight minutes.
"She's coming into her own," Dellangelo said of his sophomore forward. "She can score when she wants and finishes so well. We feed off her."
Ishpeming went on a 9-0 run in the second quarter to assume control on its way to a 27-20 halftime advantage.
Gwinn trailed just 34-28 midway through the third quarter after a 3-point bucket by Jordyn Hutchens.
But Alesha O'Brien notched five points and Gabby Croley four down the stretch to give the Hematites a 43-32 lead after 24 minutes.
"We knew the first 2-3 minutes of the quarter would be a key," Dellangelo said. "The girls executed real well on offense."
Spencer and Engler dashed any hopes Gwinn would come back by scoring seven points apiece in the fourth quarter. Morgan Skytta added five in a 25-point Ishpeming stanza.
"We extended Gwinn out and found gaps in their defense," Dellangelo said. "Everyone played their role. I'm not upset with anything.
"But it's only one game (in the tournament). We have to get ready for the next one."
Coach Olsen said despite the loss, the Modeltowners are better now than when they started the season.
"This was not our best effort, but we progressed throughout the year," he said.
Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251.