Mustangs overcome slow start to take district title
By JOHN VRANCIC
Escanaba Daily Press
GARDEN CORNERS — Defending champion Big Bay de Noc mounted a challenge and Munising answered the bell Friday night in a Class D girls district final.
Munising, which found its rhythm in the second quarter, earned a 60-45 victory over the Black Bears.
The victory sends the top-ranked Mustangs (22-1) to the regional tournament at Kingsford where they’ll face second-ranked Chassell (22-1) in Tuesday’s opener at 6 p.m. Big Bay finished 6-16.
Big Bay senior forward Brooke Dalgord, who finished her prep career with 1,000 points, got the Black Bears on the board first by draining a 20-foot set shot from the right wing.
The Black Bears gained a 19-12 advantage on a layup by junior forward Holli Stapleton with four seconds remaining in the first quarter.
Stapleton, however, picked up her third foul early in the second stanza and the Mustangs began to take advantage.
With Stapleton on the bench, Munising scored 17 unanswered points, gaining a 29-19 lead on a layup by senior forward Kianne Wendt with 1:55 left in the second frame.
“They (Big Bay) played well,” said Munising coach Matt Mattson. “I think they played their best game of the year. Their coach (Brad McPhee) had them well-prepared. We got a little lucky when Stapleton went out. We played a little box-in-one and triangle-in-two because Stapleton and Dalgord were killing us. With the success we had, we knew everybody was gunning for us.”
A free throw by Dalgord ended Munising’s 17-0 run with 1:14 left in the second. The Mustangs, however, extended their lead to 36-22 at halftime.
“I thought Nyki (Fitzgibbon) played well in the second quarter,” said Mattson. “We have little bit of depth and our bench gave us some good minutes.”
The Black Bears were within 38-26 following a layup by Stapleton with 5:41 remaining in the third, but Munising then extended its lead to as much as 51-30 on an 8-foot set shot by junior center Michaela Werner.
“Michaela played big tonight,” said Wendt, who finished with 16 points. “She leads our fast break and brings down a lot of boards for us. They definitely came ready to play. Everybody had nothing to lose against us. We tried to pressure them on top. It helped that we had the numbers. Our shooters got open and our defense picked up. Our energy was good tonight. We stuck with the fundamentals and everything worked out. Once we got our fast break going, we were okay. I think this district prepared us well for the regionals.”
Werner scored 20 points and senior guard Marissa Ackerman added 13 for the Mustangs, who committed just five turnovers.
Dalgord joined the 1,000-point club with 2:09 left in the contest when she drained a 12-foot jump shot from the left baseline, then received a standing ovation from the crowd.
“It was tough,” she said. “Munising has the best team we’ve played. This is the closest we came to them through my high school career. I think we got tired out because we have only seven players. Kianne is unstoppable when they get into their up-tempo game. Last year at this time, we were holding the district trophy. It was just the greatest feeling.”
Stapleton finished with 16 points and Dalgord had 13. The Black Bears committed 15 turnovers.
“We had them on the ropes,” said McPhee. “I thought the girls played real well. When Holli went out, it changed the game. We felt the momentum change instantly. I’m just super proud of the girls. There’s no disappointment or regrets at all. They had to win the game. We didn’t give it to them. The girls played as well as we could have hoped.”