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Gladstone defense clamps down on Gwinn girls basketball team in 43-27 win

Gwinn’s Lena Pleaugh, front, drives past Gladstone’s Ahna Larson during their game on Thursday at Gladstone. (Escanaba Daily Press photo by Austin Hemmingson)

GLADSTONE — There was a feeling of joy, happiness and relief in the Gladstone Braves gym Thursday night.

Stuck in the midst of a six-game losing streak and down three key players, the Gladstone girls basketball team put together probably its best performance of the season in a convincing 43-27 win over Gwinn.

Despite their struggles, the Braves have been a good defensive team all season. This game was no exception, as they held the Modeltowners to just 16 points in the final three quarters of the Mid-Peninsula Conference contest without their best defender — Andie Balenger — who was downstate for a school function.

“It’s unbelievable what our girls did tonight. The energy they played with and the defense they played was unreal with the short that bench that we had,” Braves coach Andy Cretens said. “Maddie Ahlgren did an unbelievable job on (Marissa) Delmont. Delmont is one of the better players in the U.P., and she had her frustrated.”

Ahlgren held Delmont to 10 points — Gwinn’s only scorer in double figures.

Gwinn’s Megan Ruokolainen, left, drives against Gladstone defender Marnnea LaFave during their game on Thursday at Gladstone. (Escanaba Daily Press photo by Austin Hemmingson)

The Modeltowners (12-6, 6-4 M-PC) were playing their third game in four days after falling just short against second-ranked Westwood and taking down fifth-ranked Negaunee earlier this week.

“Shots weren’t falling. We’ve been shooting 48% from inside the 3-point arc this year, and it wasn’t anywhere near 50% tonight,” Gwinn coach Ben Olsen said. “You don’t want to make excuses, but three games in four nights is tough.”

The Braves (6-12, 5-6 M-PC) got contributions from everyone offensively. With Taelor and Torie Zeise out once again, four players scored eight or more points to pick up the slack. Alaina Trudeau led the way with 10 points and two steals.

The Braves trailed 11-10 after the first quarter, but went ahead to stay just 50 seconds into the second when Trudeau buried a triple from the right corner. They led 19-15 at halftime, then started then the second half on a 10-4 run. Gwinn scored the next five points to pull within 29-24 with 45 seconds left in the third quarter, but Gladstone finished the game on a 14-3 run.

On Tuesday, Gladstone, which won the JV contest 40-33, visits Kingsford while Gwinn will be at Iron Mountain.