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Negaunee Miners girls basketball team pitches early shutout in win over Escanaba

Negaunee’s Madysen Kontio, right, applies defensive pressure as Escanaba’s Jen Brandt eyes the basket in their game on Wednesday in Escanaba. (Escanaba Daily Press photo by Mike Mattson)

ESCANABA — Trailing 12-0 to Negaunee after one quarter really bothered Escanaba girls basketball coach Mike Beveridge.

“It’s a little scary,” Beveridge said about being shut out in the first eight minutes. “But you don’t change anything. The girls were playing hard. If we make a few shots, we’d be fine.”

In the end, the visiting Miners made eight more free throws than the Eskymos and that was the difference Wednesday night in their 40-33 nonconference victory.

Negaunee (9-3) avenged a 38-37 loss to the Eskymos (7-5) in December and pulled out a win in the middle of a stressful exam week.

After a nearly even second quarter, the Miners led 17-4 at halftime and turned back an inspired Esky team in the second half.

“I don’t know if we got tired or what,” Negaunee coach Brandon Sager said about the second half. “We got a little complacent and went into a scoring lull.

“But give the girls credit. You have to learn how to win these kind of games and they did. We weren’t completely focused tonight.”

Negaunee senior guard Aleda Johnson, who scored her 1,000th career point Friday night, led the Miners with 13 points, eight rebounds and seven steals.

Hailey Fezatt added 10 points for Negaunee, which had 13 steals and only six turnovers.

Senior 6-foot-3 center Jen Brandt led the Eskymos with eight points, 11 rebounds and three blocks. Maddy Griffin came off the bench to add seven points and five rebounds.

The Eskymos missed all nine of their shots in the first quarter and hit on just 2 of 17 in the first half. Esky’s first points came on a putback by Griffin with 5:25 left in the second quarter to end a 14-0 Miners’ run.

“It was a tight rim for us and you don’t usually see that at home,” Beveridge said. “I was proud of our defense. We played tough defense all four quarters. I told the girls, ‘We are in this. You are playing good defense and we’ll turn this around.'”

Esky played a better third quarter and cut the deficit to 27-16 entering the final eight minutes.

The Eskymos pulled within 34-30 on a Maddy Willis basket with 3:18 left, but Fezatt promptly hit a big 3-pointer to give the Miners a cushion for the stretch. They made 4 of 7 free throws in the fourth quarter and 11 of 17 overall.

“Free throws down the stretch for us the last couple of games has been a key,” Sager said. “We didn’t shoot that well. We always struggle shooting in this gym.”

Negaunee made 12 of 57 shots from the field for 21 percent.

Esky, which held a 27-25 rebounding edge, made 14 of 39 shots from the field for 36 percent.

“Negaunee played well,” added Beveridge, whose team totaled 16 turnovers. “That is a good offensive team. For us to hold them to 37 and 40 points … we played a good four quarters on defense. We couldn’t put it in the bucket when we needed to.”

Negaunee, which won the JV game 45-44, visits Gladstone Tuesday.