NEGAUNEE - After watching the first two quarters, nobody at Lakeview Memorial Gymnasium could've guessed what would happen in the second half on Tuesday night.
Negaunee escaped with a 56-45 victory over Gladstone in a battle of inexperienced teams on the opening night of the girls basketball season.
Neither team held a lead of more than six points during a back-and-forth first half at the Miners gym.
Negaunee’s Kayla Hakala drives down court during the second quarter against Gladstone at Lakeview Memorial Gymnasium on Tuesday. (Journal photo by Matt Keiser)
Then the scoring runs began.
Starting with a late first-half 3-point play by senior Ashley Veale, Negaunee reeled off a 24-0 run to turn a 24-22 advantage into a 26-point laugher less than five minutes into the second half.
But the last laugh was almost on the Miners as Gladstone turned the tables, scoring the next 11 points and finishing the game on its own 23-8 streak.
"We made some mistakes in the second quarter, and I think it snowballed into the third quarter," Braves coach Karl Dollhopf said. "We're a young team and I think we had a mental lapse to start that second half.
"But I thought it was a good sign that the girls didn't quit."
After using three of his timeouts during the drought, Dollhopf decided to switch to a full-time, full-court pressing defense the rest of the game. It paid dividends as the Braves forced Negaunee into a number of backcourt turnovers and numerous bad shots when the Miners managed to get near the basket.
"I knew he was going to press eventually because he's a great veteran coach," NHS first-year coach Brandon Sager said about Dollhopf. "We have to get ready for the press. It's something we're going to have to work on.
"In the third quarter, though, we played great team defense. The girls worked and shared the ball. We pride ourselves in our trust and our effort."
Several Miners players agreed.
"We like to play man-to-man, halfcourt pressure," senior guard Taylor Wilber said.
"We put pretty good pressure on their guards, then give a lot of help in the post," junior forward Rosalie Anderson said.
Negaunee spread the statistical wealth around as Anderson finished with a game-high 16 points, Wilber had 12 and senior guard Ashley Veale 14. In addition, Anderson and Wilber had seven rebounds each, Veale and Adena Anderson five apiece and senior guard Kayla Hakala had four.
Even the steals were shared nearly equally, with Veale getting five and the Anderson sisters four each.
"I had some other players I would've liked to get in there, too, but with a team as athletic as Gladstone is, with four guards and a lot of motion offense, we had to try to match them athlete for athlete," Sager said.
During the first half, the score was tied four times and the lead changed hands three times as Negaunee led 27-22 at the break.
While the Braves were able to put up shots during their scoring drought to start the second half, Negaunee held a 7-1 advantage in offensive rebounds while also making several steals.
It led to five Miners players hitting a total of 10 buckets in the first five minutes of the third quarter, led by Rosalie Anderson with nine points.
When senior center Raquel Randall hit a putback off an offensive rebound with 3:08 left, Negaunee had amassed a comfortable 48-22 lead.
But the Miners wouldn't hit a basket the rest of the game. Just 14 seconds after Randall's basket, Gladstone's Callie Jensen hit a layup and the Braves had suddenly become the aggressors with their full-court press, making several layups, a short pull-up jumper and all six of its free throws to cut the Miners' lead to 48-33 with 6:56 to go.
Negaunee had a big enough lead, however, that it could lean on its staunch defense while adding just enough points - on 8-of-12 shooting from the free-throw line - to keep the game from coming down to a crucial play or two in the final minute.
Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246.