Ishpeming Hematites girls basketball coach Ryan Reichel remembers tough games vs. Calumet

Ishpeming’s Chloe Sjoholm, right, drives to the basket past Calumet’s Brea Johnson on Tuesday in Calumet. Ishpeming won 50-35. (Houghton Daily Mining Gazette photo by Eden Laase)

CALUMET — Three years ago Ishpeming traveled to Calumet and lost by 34 points. The Copper Kings played their typical defense and the Hematites couldn’t handle it.

But three years is a long time, and Ishpeming has defeated Calumet since then. Still, Hematites head coach Ryan Reichel keeps the loss in the back of his mind every time the teams square off, just to make sure his team knows what to expect.

This time, when the Copper Kings trapped, Ishpeming was ready. When they double-teamed, Ishpeming was ready. Even when they triple-teamed, Ishpeming was ready.

Calumet thrives when being able to get under the skin of its opponents, but if there is one thing that combats an overly aggressive defense, it’s discipline.

Ishpeming had plenty of it, and the Hematites beat the Copper Kings 50-35 in a nonconference game Tuesday in Calumet.

“They are a well-disciplined team, so when you play aggressive defense like we do and you play a team like that, they find a way to let you make the mistakes,” Calumet coach Jeff Twardzik said.

Calumet hung around for most of the first half, but with about a minute gone in the second quarter, Ishpeming began to hit its stride. Twardzik felt it and called a timeout to try and wrangle the run that Ishpeming was building.

But Ishpeming only added more fuel to the fire. Mariah Austin hit a 3-pointer to give Ishpeming a 25-15 lead, and things got worse from there for Calumet. By halftime, the Copper Kings trailed 31-17.

Calumet stayed close early in part because despite a disciplined exterior, the Hematites were uneasy on the inside.

“We know what Calumet brings,” Reichel said. “It was a tough night for us and we were fortunate to make some shots early on to give us a gap.

“Our girls were stressed out, but this is what makes you better. The first quarter we were a little dicey with the pressure, but overall I thought we handled it pretty well. That is what Calumet does, they make it a long night. We had to be prepared.”

Ishpeming’s offense was the perfect preparation. The Hematites don’t run any real sets, instead moving the ball and reading defensive situations. Ishpeming will pass the ball for as long as necessary until someone is open, and the team did it nearly flawlessly against Calumet.

The Hematites broke down the Copper Kings with back-door cuts and extra passes that led to wide open shots.

“That is the way this team is built,” Reichel said. “Everyone is allowed to shoot, everyone is supposed to shoot. We just want to make the next pass. We want the girls to play basketball and trust each other.

“I thought tonight they made the right reads because it is hard to read a game of basketball with this kind of defense out there.”

Ishpeming was led by seniors Madigan Johns with 15 points and Austin with 14. Defensively, Katie Lowman was tasked with guarding Calumet point guard Niina Anderson and her pressure helped the Ishpeming defense thrive. Lowman was in Anderson’s face all night, making it difficult for Calumet to set up its offense.

And when Calumet’s defensive pressure did work, the Copper Kings couldn’t convert on the other end, missing layups and high-percentage looks — a problem that isn’t new.

“I know I sound like a broken record,” Twardzik said, “but we just can’t score right now. It is not that the kids are missing the rim by a mile, it’s in and out, dinging off the rim, so it is frustrating because I think the game is better than 50-35.

“When we are getting turnovers but not scoring on them, I don’t think you feel the pressure as the other team. There are no consequences to your mistakes.”

Calumet was led by Lea Bjorn with 11 points and Brooke Kariniemi with nine.

The Copper Kings (4-1) travel to Westwood on Tuesday, while Ishpeming (7-1) goes to Gwinn the same day.