KINGSFORD - Vanessa Freberg muscled in for a lay-in at the buzzer to send Superior Central to a thrilling 61-59 MHSAA Class D regional semifinal victory over Stephenson on Tuesday night in front of a packed house at Kingsford High School.
A tight and intense contest start to finish, Freberg's bucket carried the Cougars to Thursday's regional final where they will meet unbeaten Forest Park at 7 p.m. EST. The Lady Trojans, behind Lexi Gussert's 25 points, whipped Dollar Bay 56-21 in Tuesday's first semifinal.
Superior Central's Teslyn Tyner scored a game-high 29 points, burying two clutch threes down stretch. The first, with 2:00 to play, put the Cougars ahead for the first time since early in the fourth quarter. Her second made it 58-57 Superior Central with 1:14 remaining.
Superior Central’s Teslyn Tyner drives to the basket in an MHSAA Class D girls basketball regional semifinal on Tuesday at Kingsford. (Iron Mountain Daily News photo by Burt Angeli)
"I was thinking they were pretty far out, but I had to get it up there," the senior said of her late triples. "I was feeling it, totally feeling it."
After the last three, Tyner came up with a steal on the other end, forcing Stephenson to foul. Brooke Pasanen made one to make it 59-57.
Stephenson senior Tiffany Wangerin rushed the ball up court with less than 30 seconds left, looking to set up a play, but made hard contact with Tyner just across the timeline, dropping face first to the floor in pain. Wangerin, the Eagles' leading scorer with 21 points, stayed on the floor for several minutes before being helped to the bench.
Superior Central 61, Stephenson 59
Stephenson18181013 - 59
Superior Central16171414 - 61
STEPHENSON - Tif. Wangerin 21, Kel. Johnson 13, Kar. Johnson 6, L. Johnson 13, Tor. Wangerin 6. FT: 7-9. F: 13.
SUPERIOR CENTRAL - Tyner 29, Pasanen 8, Swajanen 2, Freberg 18, Emard 4. FT: 15-19. F: 13.
FG shooting - S: 26-52 (3-pt: 0-8); SC: 19-56 (3-pt: 8-27). 3-pt FGs - S: None; SC: Tyner (6), Pasanen, Freberg. Rebounding - S: 47 (L. Johnson 20, Tor. Wangerin 11, Tif. Wangerin 10); SC: 20 (Freberg 7).
The Eagles initially sent Lexi Johnson to shoot Wangerin's free throws, but Stephenson coach Mark Simon called a time out - which he had to do by rule in order to open the possibility of Wangerin returning to the game. Sure enough, out of the timeout, it was Wangerin hobbling to the stripe. She drilled both free throws to tie the game 59-59.
"If she had a broken leg, I would have put her on the line," Simon said. "That's the kind of person she is. She is so tough, such a leader. There was no question who was going to take those free throws."
Wangerin immediately went back to the bench following the buckets.
"She's a heck of a ballplayer," Superior Central head coach Greg Trowbridge said. "Probably the best player we faced this year so far. For her to be hurt like that, the pain she was in, and to hit those two free throws. It was simply amazing."
Superior Central had about 18 seconds of clock remaining following the Wangerin pair. Freberg, who finished with 18 points, fought off a couple defenders just to secure the pass into the lane. She pushed in on the right side of the hoop and got her shot to fall - sending the Cougars' faithful into a frenzy.
"We were trying to work the ball, trying to get it to Vanessa," Trowbridge said. "And it worked. I'm not sure how she got that ball. Somebody else had their hands on it. It rolled around and went in. What a great feeling!"
The Cougars, upset by North Central in last season's regional semifinal, enter Thursday's regional final at 20-3. The three-time district champs were ranked No. 2 behind the Lady Trojans in the final U.P. hoops poll.
Thursday's contest is a rematch of 2012 regional semifinal won by the Gussert-led Trojans. Tyner missed that game due to illness.