Third quarter triples: Negaunee Miners girls basketball uses big 2nd half run to defeat Ishpeming

Ishpeming’s Madison Pruett, right, catches the ball from a teammate as Negaunee’s Hannah Voskuhl keeps pace with her on Wednesday night at Lakeview Memorial Gymnasium in Negaunee. (Journal photo by Rachel Oakley)

NEGAUNEE — With his team trailing rival Ishpeming at halftime, Negaunee head coach Brandon Sager challenged his team to come out strong in the second half.

The Miners clearly paid attention to what Sager said as they went on a 13-0 run to start the third quarter and rolled to a 60-46 victory.

“(Ishpeming) was more ready to play off the start than us,” Sager said. “I don’t know if it is having this week off and not being ready to compete for a couple of days.

“So I challenged my team at halftime and said ‘The third quarter has got to be ours.’ I wanted four minutes for us to either tie the game or take the lead, and they responded.”

Negaunee point guard Clara Johnson led all scorers with 24 points, including four 3-pointers, while Madigan Johns paced Ishpeming with 17 points.

“Clara is our floor leader and she’s had some shoulder problems,” Sager said. “She hasn’t practiced all week so we didn’t know if she was going to play tonight. For her to do what she did and battle through some adversity was a great feat for her.”

The Hematites got off to a great start as a trey and a jumper from Johns helped put them up 14-7 after one quarter. Negaunee put together a nice rally with triples from Johnson and MacKenzie Karki to pull within one at 19-18, but six straight points from Emma Poirier gave Ishpeming a 25-21 advantage at the half.

“I think Madigan and Mariah (Austin) fit in the same category as (Natalie) Bartle and Johnson,” Ishpeming head coach Ryan Reichel said. “We all have great backcourts and this is why it’s fun to coach, because every night you have a challenge. I think we did a pretty decent job stepping up to the challenge, but they hit some shots and they didn’t miss.”

From that point on, it was all Negaunee as it outscored the Hematites 25-8 in the third quarter and never looked back. During the Miners’ third-quarter surge, Abby Nelson hit back-to-back treys and Karki added another triple.

“They’re in their own gym and they had a nice run at the end of the second quarter,” Reichel said. “Then they started the third quarter right where they left off. They did what they should do in their own gym and they hit some big shots.

“I think Clara really showed who she is and I think she’s the best player in that program. She’s given us fits since I’ve been coaching here.”

Ishpeming cut its deficit to nine points thanks to two baskets by Johns, but Johnson quickly squashed the Hematites hopes with two 3-pointers.

“It’s a 20-game preseason,” Reichel said. “We have 20 free games to get better at basketball and unlike football, we can have a hiccup here or there. We’re going to get better and we’re going to be the best team we can be at the end.”

Negaunee plays at Menominee on Friday, Dec. 29, while Ishpeming is off until Tuesday, Jan. 2, when it plays at Calumet.

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is