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Clamp-down defense

Negaunee girls handle Hematites

Negaunee's Chloe Norman, second from right, and Ishpeming's Emma Poirier, right, battle for a rebound in the first quarter of their Mid-Peninsula Conference girls basketball game played at Lakeview Memorial Gymnasium in Negaunee on Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020. Looking on is Negaunee's Alyssa Hill, left, and Ishpeming's Olivia Corp. (Photo courtesy Daryl T. Jarvinen)

NEGAUNEE — The Negaunee High School girls basketball team entered the first Upper Peninsula Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association poll of the season at No. 5 on Tuesday morning.

The Miners showed why they deserve at least that ranking later that night, topping Ishpeming 47-23 at Lakeview Memorial Gymnasium to improve to 6-2.

Negaunee used a full-court defense in an attempt to stifle Ishpeming. It sure worked with the Miners shutting out the Hematites in the first and third quarters.

“We’re not normally a full-court, man-to-man team,” NHS head coach Mike O’Donnell said. “We wanted to kind of speed the game up a little bit. We used a little bit of it against Calumet last Friday and it worked for us. We went with it again.

“I thought we were definitely scuffling on the offensive end. Ishpeming knows us very well, they know our sets and they were doing a good job of making it tough for us. We were trying to get some stuff in transition to speed the game up, which kind of helped us.”

Sophomore Alyssa Hill led the Miners with 18 points, while junior Morgan Carlson reached double digits with 11, a pleasant surprise for O’Donnell.

“Morgan Carlson really stepped up,” he said. “Typically she’s not a double-figure girl for us. She was a little more aggressive (tonight) and as a result, she benefitted from that and had a nice game.”

Despite the strong performance, O’Donnell said his team still needs to shake off the rust of the holiday break as the Miners look ahead to a road tilt with Manistique (2-6) on Friday.

“We’re still looking to get back to the level we were playing before Christmas break,” he said. “We had a couple of weeks off and we were trying to regain that momentum we had.

“Right now, we’re scuffling a bit on offense. Shots that we made early in the season aren’t going (in) for us now. We’re really going to try to focus in on practice and make sure that we’re practicing at the same speed we’re playing.

“Right now we’re trying to turn it up a notch and that extra gear isn’t there for us. Conditioning, we’ve still got to get there.

“We thought we were playing a little bit better before break. We’re going to focus in on practice and Manistique is just another opportunity to get out and try to improve what we’re doing on both ends of the floor.”

The Hematites fell to 1-5 as Ishpeming head coach Ryan Reichel credited Negaunee’s tight defensive pressure.

“I thought going into the game we could match up with them,” he said. “But their defensive pressure and defensive toughness that Coach O’Donnell brings really put it to us and stifled us.

“Once we settled down a little bit in that second quarter, we were able to make it look like we were competitive. Then in the third quarter, (Negaunee) came back with the same firepower.

“It was just one of those games where everything that could go wrong, it did, and that’s a credit to what Negaunee is doing on the defensive end.”

Reichel added that it’ll be business as usual moving forward as his team hosts Hancock (3-5) on Thursday.

“It’s the mind of a goldfish,” he said. “It’s just a 20-game preseason and we’re just looking forward. We’ve got to get ready for Hancock and we don’t have much time to feel sorry for ourselves. We have to be much better. We can’t play that kind of game against good teams like that.”

The Miners led 12-0 after one quarter with half those points coming from Hill. Ishpeming finally eliminated the goose egg 20 seconds into the second on a triple from junior Rylee Harris.

The Hematites kept the deficit within 10 points three times, but fell into a 14-point hole at halftime, 24-10.

While Negaunee was limited to just nine points in the third, the Miners defense shut Ishpeming down once again, keeping the Hematites off the scoreboard and taking a 33-10 lead with eight minutes left.

Sophomore guard Lilly Nelson added eight points for the Miners while senior Chloe Norman and junior Larissa Anderson each finished with four. Senior Breanne Giotto chipped in with two.

Ishpeming was led by junior guard Madisyn Mead with eight points while Harris finished with six and senior Emma Poirier four.

Negaunee was 20 of 59 from the field for 34 percent while Ishpeming was 8 of 40 for 20 percent.

Negaunee collected 35 rebounds with Hill grabbing 11 of those. Ishpeming had 26 rebounds with Mead and senior Kayla Kosi picking up six each.

Email Ryan Spitza at sports@miningjournal.net.