Gwinn falls to Gladstone, 38-33

Gwinn’s Megan Ruokolainen, left, drives by Gladstone’s Lilly Griebel during their high school girls basketball game played Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019, at Gladstone. (Escanaba Daily Press photo by Austin Hemmingson)

By AUSTIN

HEMMINGSON

Escanaba Daily Press

GLADSTONE — The Gladstone girls basketball team found its offense just in time to pull away from Gwinn for a 38-33 victory to end the regular season on Thursday night.

Trailing 24-14 entering the fourth quarter, the Modeltowners cut their deficit to 26-21 on a 3-pointer by left wing by Trisha McGuire with 5:58 left in this Mid-Peninsula Conference contest.

But Gladstone scored the next seven points to pull way. Junior guard Andie Balenger capped the run with an eight-foot jumper from the left baseline to put the Braves up 33-21 with 2:52 left.

“That got us some separation,” Braves’ coach Andy Cretens said. “They were trying to pressure us and we were able to find the open girl.”

The Modeltowners (10-9, 6-6 M-PC) made one last push, responding with a 9-3 spurt to trim their deficit to 36-30 on a three-point play by McGuire with 59.8 ticks left.

“Turnovers let them get back in it again,” Cretens said. “At the flip of a switch we started turning it over again.”

The Braves (11-8, 7-5) were able to ice the game at the free throw line as Gwinn struggled to put the ball in the hoop during the last minute.

“It’s been that way for us lately. We only scored 26 against Westwood and 29 against Negaunee,” Gwinn coach Ben Olsen said. “We got the shots we wanted, but for whatever reason they’re not going in the basket.

“We held them to 38 points and and I thought our press irritated them just enough to throw them off their game. If we put together a bunch of 19-point quarters like the last one we probably don’t lose this game by five.”

The Braves held Gwinn to just two points in the first quarter and five in the second to hold a 14-7 halftime lead. The third quarter was much of the same, holding Gwinn to seven points for just 14 total through the first three periods.

“We’re really excited about our defense right now,” Cretens said. “It’s our bread and butter. High school kids have a hard time buying into it sometimes, but not this group. We feel good after our poor defensive performance against Negaunee (Tuesday). Now we know we can play defense again. This is exactly what we needed.”

But it wasn’t what the Modeltowners needed. They shot just 23 percent from the field, while the Braves shot 41 percent.

“The way the struggles have been building, I’m starting to think it’s a confidence thing,” Olsen said. “We run our offense through everyone, so everyone gets an even amount of looks. We’re a good team with a chance to make a run but I told them there’s no do-overs anymore.

“We got to score more than 33 points. Defensively, I’m happy with where we’re at.”

Sophomore forward Megan Crow was the lone scorer in double figures for either side, leading the Braves with 18 points. McGuire and Emily Curtice paced Gwinn with eight points each.

The Braves, who won the JV game 32-24, host Houghton in their MHSAA Division 2 district opener Wednesday. Gwinn hosts the winner of Ishpeming and Manistique in its Division 3 district opener Wednesday.