MARQUETTE - If Ishpeming High School girls basketball coach Mark Dellangelo needs to look more distinguished by growing a few gray hairs, Manistique's Kyra Lauzon is his perfect solution.
The Emeralds' 5-foot-6 senior guard scored a game-high 21 points, but it wasn't enough to keep the Hematites from taking a 50-36 victory in a MHSAA Class C regional semifinal game played at Marquette Senior High School on Tuesday.
Ishpeming (17-6) advances to the regional championship game at 7 p.m. Thursday back at MSHS against regional favorite Houghton (21-2), which won Tuesday's other semi, 70-40, over West Iron County.
Ishpeming sophomore Tammy Simula, front, takes a look at the basket while being guarded by Manistique senior Kyra Lauzon during an MHSAA Class C regional semifinal basketball game at Marquette Senior High School on Tuesday evening. Lauzon scored a game-high 21 points, but it wasn’t enough to keep the Hematites from prevailing, 50-36. (Journal photo by Steve Brownlee)
Dellangelo and Manistique coach Kelley Spettel are familiar with each other since they're Mid-Peninsula Conference rivals and had their most recent meeting only two weeks ago.
"We had been able to hold her in check before, but she was just killing us tonight," Dellangelo said about Lauzon. "We were fortunate they had no one else that had a real hot hand.
"She was a first-team all-conference pick, so you know she's a good player."
Lauzon was active throughout, knocking down shots from all over, drawing fouls and trips to the free-throw line, and even following up some of her own misses with offensive rebounds.
The Emeralds (8-15) held the lead for nearly the entire first half, only trailing 2-0 in the game's opening minute and being tied twice just before intermission, including 19-19 at halftime.
Dellangelo gave Spettel credit for installing a 1-3-1 zone defense, something the Emeralds hadn't employed in their games against Ishpeming this season.
"We weren't expecting it against them, and we hadn't seen it before, at least not the way Manistique was playing it," the Ishpeming coach said.
Spettel said that was the idea.
"I knew they had seen our 2-3 zone before, so we had to change things up," the Manistique mentor said.
"We ran into the same problem we've had all season - turnovers. We just seemed to get kind of scattered when they starting pressing us in the third quarter.
"If you discount that, we played a pretty good game. I was extremely happy with the way the girls played."
She was willing to look at the overall picture, which included last week's district championship, the school's first since 2006.
"Ishpeming played well and deserved to win," Spettel said.
This was also a high-water mark for the Hematites, even though they're making their third straight regional appearance after going 30 straight years without getting out of the districts.
That's because Ishpeming lost in the regional semis the past two years to powerhouses St. Ignace and Houghton.
"This is just another hurdle we've been able to climb," Dellangelo said of Tuesday's win.
The Emeralds had a lot of two- and three-chance possessions in the first half as they dominated the boards with a bit of height advantage.
Manistique built its biggest lead of 13-5 late in the first quarter as senior Gabby Lafayette hit a pair of early buckets. But the Hematites went on a 7-0 run that stretched early into the second quarter to pull within one, 13-12, and kept it close throughout the rest of the half.
The Emeralds held off Ishpeming for much of the third quarter, taking their last lead at 23-22 with 5:50 to go when Lauzon missed a 3-pointer, got her own rebound and rushed the lane for a short jumper. She also tied it 25-25 with 2:36 left on a pair of free throws.
But seconds later Ishpeming sophomore Kaylie Engler hit her own tosses from the charity stripe, sparking a 13-2 run as the Hematites ratcheted up their defensive pressure and made at least five steals during this five-minute stretch.
"Our girls closed out well in the third and fourth quarters," Dellangelo said, "but we'll have to play four full quarters if we want to continue to have a chance to win.
"The good thing is we can defend with just about anybody, and that should keep us in ballgames."
Sophomore Jessica Spencer led Ishpeming in three categories for the second straight game, scoring 16 points, grabbing six rebounds and making three steals. Senior Taylor Croley matched Spencer with six rebounds while senior Alesha O'Brien also made three steals. Engler was next in Hematite scoring with nine points.
Lauzon not only led all players in scoring, but topped Manistique rebounders with five. Lafayette was next among Emeralds scorers with six points.
Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246.