Stating their case: Undefeated Negaunee vying for No. 1 spot in U.P. with dominating win over Escanaba, 78-36

Negaunee’s Lynsee Dempsey, right, battles for possession of a loose ball with Escanaba’s Madison Griffin in the fourth quarter of their high school girls basketball game played Wednesday at Lakeview Memorial Gymnasium in Negaunee. (Photo courtesy Daryl T. Jarvinen)

NEGAUNEE — With each passing game, the Negaunee girls basketball team has been making a statement that it is one of, if not the best team in the Upper Peninsula.

The Miners made their case again Wednesday night with a dominant 78-36 win over Escanaba at Lakeview Memorial Gym in Negaunee. Natalie Bartle led Negaunee (12-0) with 22 points, while Clara Johnson added 20.

Lexi Chaillier was Esky’s leader with 11 points and seven rebounds.

Even though his team looked strong in victory, Negaunee head coach Brandon Sager still thinks his team needs to work on some things in the coming weeks before the postseason begins in the last few days of February.

“I think our defense picked up in the second quarter and we were able to get out and run,” he said. “There are still some little things that we aren’t doing very well, which caused that first quarter to be a little sloppy and closer than what we would’ve liked.

“We’ll take it, but we still have a lot of work to do to get to the point that we want to be at as we head into March.”

The game was fairly close in the first quarter. A 3-pointer by Johnson put the Miners up 14-9, but Sara Beauchamp dropped in a layup while falling down to pull the Eskymos within three heading into the second.

That’s when things got a bit out of control. Negaunee opened up the frame on an 8-0 run and after Escanaba’s Savannah Barron knocked down a jumper, the Miners went on a seven-point surge to go up 29-13 on the Eskymos. Negaunee held a 32-17 advantage at the half.

“My girls played hard the whole game, but Negaunee is just a very good team,” Escanaba head coach Mike Beveridge said. “They’re very fundamentally sound and they have some good talent. For us to maintain four quarters of what we did in the first quarter is tough to do. I give credit to my girls because they didn’t quit.

“We’ve got to keep working together. We’ve got some transfers in and we’re starting to find our roles. We just need to work on some basic stuff like taking care of the ball and cutting our turnovers down.”

It didn’t take long for the Miners to put the game away in the third quarter. After Escanaba got a nice steal and layup from Chaillier, Bartle scored back-to-back layups for the Miners, and later on, Johnson and Hannah Voskuhl each hit treys to help put Negaunee up 48-22. Escanaba didn’t score another field goal until there was a minute left and a layup by Johnson right before the end of the quarter ended any hopes of a dramatic Eskymos comeback.

Escanaba plays at Iron Mountain Friday, while the Miners host Gladstone on Tuesday.

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