Building experience: Ishpeming girls basketball team can improve with mix of returners, newcomers
Editor’s note: This is one in a series of season previews of Marquette and Alger County high school basketball teams as the girls’ season started Monday and the boys season commences next Monday.
ISHPEMING — After a year that decimated a good chunk of the high school basketball schedule, the Ishpeming girls team appears to have learned positive lessons from it.
Only playing 14 regular-season games, Ishpeming finished 5-10 after a 40-28 MHSAA Division 3 district tournament loss to L’Anse.
Coming off that into this season, Hematites coach Ryan Reichel said his team has embraced the fleeting nature of their game.
“Trying to get these kids to realize that at any given time now, the game can be taken away, so play each game like it’s your last,” Reichel said. “The kids really bought into that so far this year, and it’s been fun coming to practice every day knowing that we’re going to give our best and hopefully that we can have a full and complete season.”
Though last year didn’t go the way these Hematites would’ve hoped, it was 15 more games of experience for this year’s group. Playing tough teams and attending summer team camps, Reichel hopes it will give his team momentum heading into the season.
“We gained some really good experience last year, there’s some pretty good teams that we had to face,” Reichel said. “The year before, we did not get a summer of team camps, and this past summer we got multiple team camps in which we were able to gain some more experience and more chemistry on the floor.
“Even with the limited season last year, that really helped snowball into the summer for us and we’re hoping to keep the momentum going and start building up some wins and getting on the positive side of wins and losses this year.”
Sophomore Jenna Maki begins her second season as starting point guard for IHS. While playing big minutes as a freshman will always have its growing pains, now that she has a year under her belt, her coach looks for her to take more control of Ishpeming’s offense.
“From more of a leadership standpoint, to manage the floor,” Reichel on what he expects from Maki. “Being a point guard isn’t very easy, and her being a young one is even harder.
“But she is developing very well, she listens, she’s a student of the game and being able to push on her and lean on her a little bit to do the things you want, not necessarily just scoring, but keeping the team controlled and keeping things moving the way we want to for our team to be in a better position to win at the end of games.”
Around Maki, senior Olivia Corp returns for her fourth year on the varsity in the post. Over the summer, Reichel said he has seen a growth in her confidence.
Another key returner is Hannah Deloughary, who is a quality defender. Bailey Zellar was an all-conference player at Newberry, and her family recently moving to the area will give Ishpeming another offensive threat.
In addition to Maki, Addi Morton and Lily Swanson give the Hematites three sophomore starters. A relatively young squad, the hope is that the veteran players can lead.
“They’ll be able to show that basketball maturity in how to handle a little adversity,” Reichel said. “When your upperclassmen are looking calm when things are going bad, those younger players will feed off that.”
Ishpeming begins the season with a tough five-game stretch. The Hematites hosted Bark River-Harris on Tuesday in the season opener, then are going on the road to take on Houghton on Friday, Kingsford on Monday and Gladstone on Thursday, Dec. 9.
Ishpeming then comes home to face Westwood before traveling to Calumet in the team’s final game before the new year.
“I mean, our first part of the season is brutal,” Reichel said about 10 days ago. “Coach (Mike) O’Donnell from Negaunee and I looked at our schedules, and we were like, ‘hoof’. Going into the new year, you could either be 0-5 or 5-0 or 1-4.
“Like it’s a crapshoot right now, but that’s why we’re scrimmaging as much as we can right now to get the opportunity to work out some of the kinks.”
Travis Nelson can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.