Star among stars: Ella Mason pumps in 30 points to lead Negaunee Miners girls basketball team past Ishpeming, 65-56

From left, Negaunee’s Gretel Johnson gets a good grip on the ball as Ishpeming’s Jenessa Eagle goes up for a shot in the second quarter as the Miners’ Clare O’Donnell also defends during their high school girls basketball game played at the Hematites’ gym on Friday. (Photo courtesy Daryl T. Jarvinen)

ISHPEMING — Ella Mason was a star among stars for the Negaunee High School girls basketball team on Friday night as her Miners won 65-56 to avenge an earlier defeat to Ishpeming.

Each team has a single loss this season, both coming against the other as the Hematites prevailed 57-53 on Jan. 12 at Lakeview Memorial Gymnasium in Negaunee.

Both teams have been No. 1 in their respective girls divisions just about all season in the weekly Upper Peninsula Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association polls. Both are in the top 10 in state Associated Press rankings, too.

Negaunee improved to 17-1 as the Miners were No. 6 in the state in Division 2 last week along with a unanimous No. 1 in the UPSSA Divisions 1-3 polls. Meanwhile, Ishpeming now rests at 15-1 after being a unanimous No. 1 in the state in Division 4 and the same consensus top team in the UPSSA’s D-4 ranks.

In this game in Ishpeming on Friday, Mason not only matched the most baskets made by any player with seven, but was a perfect 13-of-13 at the free-throw line to lead all players with 30 points. Along with making a trio of 3-pointers, the Miners’ senior was sent to the line multiple times every quarter.

Negaunee head coach Mike O'Donnell talks to his Miners players during a timeout in the second quarter of a high school girls basketball game played against Ishpeming at the Hematites' gym on Friday. (Photo courtesy Daryl T. Jarvinen)

That offset the Hematites’ leading scorer, sophomore Jenessa Eagle, who pumped in 20 points and also sank three triples while making 5 of 6 free throws.

Ishpeming also got 16 points from another sophomore, Mya Hemmer, the only other player on either team to score in double figures. Like Mason, she made seven baskets, all of the 2-point variety as she hit at least one every quarter.

“I thought the rematch lived up to the hype and both teams entertained the big crowd all night,” Negaunee head coach Mike O’Donnell said in an email reporting the result. “Credit to both teams.

“We both played full-court pressure defense for 32 minutes and there wasn’t an easy moment all night.

“Ella Mason was our rock tonight, as a senior she really wanted this game and hit a lot of tough, big shots all game with the defense all over her.”

Hematites head man Ryan Reichel also praised the Miners.

“Any time you can go against a school Negaunee’s size and battle with them, you’ll always get better,” he said in a text. “This loss will help us in March.”

And he only had praise for Negaunee’s senior star.

“I am so glad to be done with Ella Mason,” Reichel said. “She’s such a talented player and tonight she carried them. (I’ll be) excited to watch her at Michigan Tech.”

Despite none of his other players scoring more than eight points, O’Donnell found it easy to single out contributions from other Miners, too.

“Ultimately, I felt like our other players helped put us over the top with some clutch baskets, free throws, ball handling … you name it,” the Negaunee coach said.

“Aubrey Johnson’s speed with the ball against the press was key. Grace Nardi drilling back-to-back 3s in the third quarter when Ishpeming was making a push was huge. Madison Pekrul played rock solid on both ends.”

Each of those three players scored eight points as teammate Gretel Johnson added seven.

“The list goes on, but I’m just proud of our girls’ fight against an extremely talented, well coached Ishpeming team,” O’Donnell said. “Win or lose tonight, I feel both teams got better and this game is going to benefit us both down the road.”

Probably an illustration of the intensity of this series, let alone this particular game, was that the teams combined for 51 free throw attempts. Negaunee won that battle, making 22 of 31 for 71% while the Hematites were good on 14 of 20 for 70%.

“Tonight was a free throw battle,” Reichel said, “which resulted in us struggling to get in a flow we’ve been used to all season. Learning to play with dead ball possessions is something we have to get better at.”

The Miners jumped out to a 14-10 lead after one quarter as Mason, Pekrul and Hemmer each had six points. Negaunee stayed up 30-25 at halftime as Mason had another eight points in the second period.

Eagle put in eight points in the third as the Hematites stayed within hailing distance, 44-40, after three quarters, then she added another eight points in the final period. The Miners were able to negate that in the final eight minutes as their 21-point total then included 8 of 9 free throws made, 5 of 5 by Mason.

Ishpeming will continue to run a gauntlet this week, facing UPSSA Division 4 No. 2 team Baraga at home at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday, then plays at Division 2 Escanaba at 7 p.m. Thursday.

Negaunee has just one game this week, a 7:15 p.m. game Tuesday at Gwinn.

Information compiled by Journal Sports Editor Steve Brownlee. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.


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