Early success a key: Gwinn girls basketball team races out to quick lead, hold off Ishpeming Hematites, 50-45

Ishpeming’s Emma Poirier takes a shot over Gwinn’s Megan Ruokolainen at Ishpeming High School on Tuesday. (Journal photo by Corey Kelly)

“I credit my girls for toughing out another victory.” — Ben Olsen, head coach, Gwinn girls basketball

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ISHPEMING — A strong first quarter for the Gwinn High School girls varsity basketball team, combined with an off-night shooting free throws for Ishpeming, propelled the Modeltowners to a 50-45 win at the Hematites’ gym on Tuesday night.

The Modeltowners (6-1) raced out to a 16-7 lead after one quarter of play as three players hit double-digit scoring.

Gwinn head coach Ben Olsen credited Ishpeming on its various defensive looks, which caused his team to make mistakes throughout the game.

“We’ve had a couple of different nights now where we were just hanging on by a thread,” he said. “We made some uncharacteristic mistakes.

“You’ve got to credit what Ishpeming did. They came out there and pressured us with some 1-3-1 possessions and then run-and-jump with another one and I think it took our girls a little bit by surprise.

“We made enough free throws at the end to keep the lead up to three points and that’s what you kind of want to do in those situations.

“I credit my girls for toughing out another victory. This is a game we probably would have lost the last couple of years and we’re just finding ways to gut out wins.

“Give Ishpeming a whole ton of credit because they did some stuff that made us uncomfortable (tonight).”

Free throws were a different story for the Hematites (1-5) and head coach Ryan Reichel as Ishpeming made just 11 of 21 from the charity stripe, a huge difference maker in a game where his team kept things close, but never got a lead.

“We missed nine or 10 free throws in the first half and five pretty easy layups, and against a team that’s as good as they are, we didn’t capitalize on at least 19 points that are pretty much freebies in the game of basketball. Free throws and uncontested layups should be a ‘give-me’ and we didn’t capitalize on that.

“Credit to Gwinn. They bent a little bit but didn’t break. What they are this year is similar to what we were last year. We’re just a little bit inexperienced, but as the season goes I think we’ll be a better team because of these kinds of games.”

The Modeltowners jumped out to a 4-0 lead on baskets from senior guards Mallory Delmont and Trisha McGuire before Ishpeming got on the board on a layup from junior guard Emma Poirier.

The Hematites were limited to just five more points in the first eight minutes however, with Gwinn holding a 16-7 lead after one.

Gwinn extended its lead at the beginning of the second on a layup from sophomore guard Tianna Taylor to make it 18-7.

Ishpeming kept chipping away, however, cutting its disadvantage to four on a layup from sophomore forward Rebekah Loman to make it 18-14.

Four was the margin at halftime as well, with the Modeltowners holding a 27-23 edge.

Gwinn opened the second half with a steal and pass to senior guard Brooke Mannor, who put in a layup and was fouled on the play. Mannor made the free throw, the Modeltowners made a stop on the following Ishpeming possession and McGuire came back down the floor and hit a triple to quickly make it 32-23 Modeltowners.

Gwinn held a 36-29 edge after three quarters, and Ishpeming quickly cut the deficit to four once again, opening the fourth quarter with a triple from senior guard Madison Pruett.

Mannor followed that up with a 3-pointer of her own before Pruett drained another, keeping the lead at four.

The Hematites cut it to 39-37 after a layup from Loman who drew the and-1 play. Loman missed the free throw, however, that would have cut the lead to one.

After Gwinn built the lead for a little while, the Hematites cut it to two points again with 1:46 left. Poirier stole the ball and was fouled on the shot, making both free throws to make it 45-43.

After two free throws the other way from junior guard Marissa Delmont, it was a 47-43 game before a 2-point basket from sophomore guard Jocelynn Nyman made the deficit two yet again.

That’s as close as the Hematites would come, sinking three more free throws in the final 30 seconds to seal it.

Mannor finished with 16 points for the Modeltowners while McGuire and Marissa Delmont had 10 apiece. The Hematites were led by Poirier with 13 while Pruett added 12 and Loman 9.

Olsen said while he’d like his team to finish games earlier, he’s happy that close games keep his players on their toes.

“As long as we keep doing whatever we have to do,” he said. “I would like to get to a point where it’s not a nailbiter but if that’s what this is going to be this year, than that’s what it’s going to be and it’s only going to prepare us for districts.

“The more tight games you’re in, the more you’re prepared for that district game. I’ll take tight games as long as we can sneak out with wins.”

Ishpeming travels to Iron Mountain (4-4) on Thursday while Gwinn hosts L’Anse (5-3).

Ishpeming won the JV game 54-18.

Email Ryan Spitza at sports@miningjournal.net.