‘Super sub’ Brea Johnson wills Calumet girls basketball team to win over L’Anse Purple Hornets, 55-54

L’Anse’s Maija Rice, front, goes up for a shot as Calumet’s Brea Johnson defends on Thursday in Calumet. (Houghton Daily Mining Gazette photo by Eden Laase)

CALUMET — Brea Johnson knew L’Anse wasn’t going to fold, so she wasn’t about to either.

With 6:40 left in the fourth quarter, the Purple Hornets were closing in on the Copper Kings, and Calumet clung to a two-point lead. Then Johnson worked her magic.

She drove baseline for a 3-point play, and on the following possession gave Calumet a seven-point lead by slicing through the defense and putting up a floater on the right side.

Every time Calumet needed a basket, Johnson was the one to score, and her 17-point effort helped the Copper Kings squeak by visiting L’Anse, 55-54, in a West PAC matchup on Thursday.

The senior said she remains focused in high-pressure situations because of something she calls the “you-me mentality” — the “you” in this case being L’Anse.

“They put their all in so you have to put your all in as well,” she said. “I knew I couldn’t stress or give the ball away, because they wouldn’t, so I just remembered that.”

Johnson is Calumet’s sixth player, but starting she said, doesn’t matter. Instead, she makes the most of her time on the floor.

L’Anse got plenty of scoring from one of its young players, Addison Mattson. The sophomore had 20 points, including seven in the first quarter when L’Anse led Calumet 10-9. But down the stretch, it was a senior that kept the Purple Hornets in the ball game.

Taylor Brown was a perfect 8 for 8 at the free-throw line in the final eight minutes.

“She was extremely clutch down the stretch, she didn’t miss once,” L’Anse coach Scott Lloyd said of Brown. “But that is just what seniors do.”

Ultimately, Johnson won out, plus Calumet’s patented trapping defense was too much for the Purple Hornets. The Copper Kings used their speed and length to force turnovers and sloppy possessions. There was no break for L’Anse, as Calumet rotated between full and half-court sets throughout the game.

“Our girls would wait too long to throw out of it, so their length and their quickness would stop us from passing the ball out and we would end up throwing the ball away,” Lloyd said. “Their defense gives you fits.”

L’Anse was able to stay in the game in part because the Copper Kings struggled on the offensive end, particularly in the fourth quarter when they were outscored 23-16. Their defense is always there, but turning that defense into offense is the next step. Steals came easily, but layups are a different story.

“When we don’t score the whole rhythm of the game is off,” Calumet coach Jeff Twardzik said. “We missed five or six layups tonight, and when you take 10 or 15 points that should be there off the board, it is going to be a one-point game.”

But when it really mattered, that is when the Copper Kings converted. Seven of Johnson’s points came in need-to-score situations in the fourth, and fellow senior Nina Anderson chipped in 15 points on the game, with a huge 3-pointer in the final quarter to help stifle another L’Anse run.

L’Anse (4-3, 0-2) hosts Ewen-Trout Creek on Jan. 4.