Marquette girls basketball team unable to penetrate tough Saginaw Heritage inside defense at Class A regionals

Marquette’s Chloe Hale works the ball around the perimeter against Saginaw Heritage during the Class A girls basketball regional semifinal game held in Gaylord on Tuesday evening. (Photo by Brandon Folsom)

“It’s just not the start you want, and we just didn’t have an answer for their intensity.” — Ben Smith,

Marquette head coach, on Heritage’s 11-0 start to Tuesday’s game

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GAYLORD — The Marquette girls basketball team made scoring in the paint look as easy as ever when it opened the postseason last week.

The Redettes (16-7) just couldn’t replicate that success in a Class A regional semifinal Monday in Jim Mongeau Gymnasium in Gaylord.

Saginaw Heritage packed the paint to shut down Marquette’s post players and came out with a 57-24 win. The Hawks face Flint Carman-Ainsworth in the regional championship at 6 p.m. Thursday in Mount Pleasant.

“We didn’t come out with the start we wanted,” Marquette coach Ben Smith said. “We came out a little scared and tentative about making a mistake. Against them (Heritage), you have to be as aggressive as you’ve ever been.”

The Hawks (23-1) opened on an 11-0 run, which was capped off by Hannah Sheldon scoring from down low near the right block. Marquette didn’t crack the scoreboard until Avery Ledy sank a pair of free throws with 2:56 left in the opening quarter.

Marquette’s scoring woes were due to Heritage’s tough 2-3 zone defense. The Hawks list four players on their roster who are 5-foot-10 or taller. Marquette struggled to get a clean pass down low all night.

“We’ve done a pretty good job in the post all year, so we just wanted to do what we do,” Heritage coach Vonnie DeLong said. “We knew they (Marquette) were just going to be very physical and tough, and they are — their post players are very good.

“We just had to fight through, get around people and get our help side to help. When they tried to go over the top, a lot of the time we were in a good position to get some steals.”

Heritage built off its 15-2 first-quarter lead by going on a 13-2 run during the middle of the next period. A lot of those points came in transition off steals from Moira Joiner, Shine Strickland-Gills and Jessie Bicknell.

Once again, Marquette was held scoreless for the first half of the quarter, relying on both a baseline jumper from Sydney Kivi and a 3-pointer from Bridget Pliska to spark some offense. The Redettes trailed 29-9 at halftime.

“Defending them off made buckets is hard enough, but when we’re not making plays on the offensive end and they’re getting turnovers and defensive rebounds to get out and run, it’s tough,” Smith said. “They had a couple of possessions where they had two or three kids beating us down the floor, which we can’t have happen to us at this level if we want to win this game.”

The Hawks did more of the same offensively in the second half, exiting the third quarter with a 39-11 lead and adding 18 more points in the fourth.

“It’s just not the start you want, and we just didn’t have an answer for their intensity,” Smith added. “They’re (Heritage) athletic, and they get after you defensively.

“We were just not confident enough to make plays.”

Joiner paced the Hawks with 13 points, followed by Strickland-Gills with 11. Strickland-Gills, a top college prospect, exited the game with a left ankle injury in the third quarter.

Marquette’s Madison Carter led with 10 points, including eight in the fourth, while Chloe Hale and Pliska each had three and Aspen Michelin, Kivi, Rayna Warchock and Ledy pitched in two apiece.

The Redettes graduate six seniors, which include Chloe Hale, Claudia Hale, Ellie Hicks, Mo Miller and Stasha Warchock.

Brandon Folsom is the sports editor of the Gaylord Herald Times.