Poise, patience pay off for Munising Mustangs girls basketball team in win over Bark River-Harris

Munising’s Daryn Johnson, right, goes up for a shot against several Bark River-Harris defenders in their high school girls basketball game played Tuesday at the Broncos’ gym. Johnson scored a career-high 19 points in the Mustangs’ 56-52 win. (Escanaba Daily Press photo by Mike Mattson)

HARRIS — Munising relied on poise, patience, balance and experience Tuesday night in a girls basketball showdown at Bark River-Harris.

The Mustangs, ranked the No. 1 team in Class D in the season’s first Upper Peninsula Sportswriters and Sportscasters poll, made 10 of 14 free throws in the fourth quarter to break open a close game and earn a hard-fought 56-52 victory against the third-ranked Broncos.

“It was a good high school basketball game,” Munising coach Matt Mattson said. “It could have went either way. Bark River is a very talented team. We got lucky tonight.

“They played well and we finished down the stretch and made some free throws. They were in a situation they had to foul us. We just made a few more plays down the stretch.”

Munising (7-1) had good scoring balance as four players reached double figures, led by junior Daryn Johnson’s career-high 19 points. Kianne Wendt, who was bothered by the flu, Kelsea Ackerman and Michaela Werner each scored 10 points for the Mustangs.

For the Broncos (8-2), they saw an eight-game winning streak come to an end. They lost their season opener 78-40 at Ishpeming and had played inspired basketball since the defeat.

BR-H battled the Mustangs from the opening tip in a game that didn’t see a lead bigger than five points until the final quarter.

The game was tied 37-37 after three quarters, but Munising took control with a three-point play by Wendt and a 3-pointer from Johnson to build a 48-39 lead with 5:06 left.

The Broncos answered with baskets from Lauryn Bloniarz and Sierra Debelak to cut the deficit to 48-43.

But Munising made 8 of 12 free throws the rest of the way and the Broncos didn’t score again until Tatiana LaFave’s 3-pointer with 33 seconds left. BR-H also hit two 3-pointers in the last eight seconds to tighten up the final score.

“First, Munising is very disciplined and we knew they could shoot free throws,” said Broncos’ coach Josh Eagle, whose team was 3 of 9 from the charity stripe. “That paid huge dividends for them down the stretch. Anytime you touch them they will make at least one, if not both every time. That hurts anytime you play a team that can shoot free throws like that when it’s close.

Megan Robinette led the Broncos with 13 points, while Hailee Demers chipped in with 11 and Bloniarz added 10.

Mattson said the Mustangs were concerned about Robinette and tried to neutralize her.

The Broncos also have excelled with their full-court pressure defense, but Munising did not wilt against it.

“Obviously you have to handle Bark River’s pressure,” said Mattson, whose team had 15 turnovers and shot 40 percent from the field. “They are a fantastic defensive team. I thought the Ackermans did very well on that and Daryn Johnson hit a couple shots. If you can handle their pressure you have a chance. I thought we handled it OK.”

BR-H led 14-13 after one quarter and the Mustangs posted a 28-27 lead at halftime.

The Broncos won the JV game 52-29.

Munising hosts Carney-Nadeau on Friday.

“I know these are two good Class D schools in the U.P. and we played much better tonight than we did last week,” added Mattson, whose team lost to Gwinn last week.