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Yooper girls lose close Border Bash high school all-star basketball contest

Northern Michigan’s Ellie Miller, left, of Westwood shoots as Northern Wisconsin’s Brooke Wideman of Amherst defends at the Kiwanis Classic Border Bash girls high school basketball all-star game played Wednesday at Northland Pines High School in Eagle River, Wis. (Ironwood Daily Globe photo by Jason Juno)

EAGLE RIVER, Wis. — Northern Wisconsin coach Ryan Clark of Rhinelander was a little uncomfortable calling it good defense when his girls basketball team gave up 99 points in the Kiwanis Classic Border Bash held Wednesday night at Northland Pines High School.

And while the boys game later in the night featured seemingly no defense, he thought that was the difference in his team’s 108-99 win over the Upper Peninsula-based Northern Michigan team.

Wisconsin trailed by as many as 10 points in the first half and was down by four, 52-48, at the half before turning the tables early in the second half and taking a double-digit lead.

To be fair, scoring was bound to be up with the games lasting 52 minutes here compared to a normal 32 minutes for high school games in Michigan and 36 in Wisconsin.

“At halftime, we just talked a little bit about (how) I thought they were driving on us pretty aggressively,” Clark said. “So we wanted to get into help a little bit more, get in the gap.

Northern Michigan's Emilia Palomaki of Negaunee passes around Northern Wisconsin's Rebecca Lawrence of Rhinelander at the Kiwanis Classic Border Bash girls high school basketball all-star game played Wednesday at Northland Pines High School in Eagle River, Wis. (Ironwood Daily Globe photo by Jason Juno)

“The second half, I thought they played really good defense, even though I don’t usually say ‘great defense’ when you leave a team to 99 points, but I thought did a really nice job defensively.”

About four or five hours before the game, they were still learning each other’s names. Right before tipoff, Clark warned his team about his competitiveness and his desire to win the game, even though it was just an all-star exhibition game.

“And at halftime, they were like, man, let’s go win this one,” the coach said. “Super talented young ladies.”

Waukesha Catholic Memorial’s Alyssa Nimz, a Northern Michigan University recruit, scored 29 points to lead all scorers and take MVP honors back to suburban Milwaukee.

“I think she could do just a little bit of everything,” Clark said. “She’s just super skilled. And she’s like a 6-foot position-less player. She plays inside, she can play outside, she can post up, shoot it, she hits her free throws and she can lead us on the break.

“But when we needed a basket, I felt like we could always go to her and she’d find a way. So super talented player and she definitely earned the MVP.”

Edgar’s all-time leading scorer, 5-foot-7 Makenna Gruden, scored 24 points, while Merrill’s 5-5 Courtney Krueger and 5-8 Alexa Thomson of West De Pere each scored 15.

Michigan coach Jacky Besonen of Ewen-Trout Creek thought her team went cold in the second half.

“We did not shoot well,” she said. “We went on a run there where it seemed like we were making nothing. And they were hitting some good shots, too. So I think that was a big difference.”

Menominee’s Emma Anderson led Michigan with 17 points. She was an All-U.P. Dream Team selection the past two years and she was Ms. U.P. Basketball as a junior. Her teammate, Erin Barette, scored 13.

Clark said Anderson hurt his Wisconsin team in the first half with the way she shot the ball, scoring 12 points before halftime. He said Escanaba’s Nicole Kamin, this year’s Ms. U.P. Basketball, was a tough guard — “she’s quick and aggressive and she had a little length to her.”

“They finished well and their guards are quick,” he added.

St. Ignace’s Hallie Marshall finished with 14 points. Maija Rice of L’Anse scored 12.

In addition, Westwood’s Ellie Miller and Negaunee’s Emilia Palomaki each had one point.

Both E-TC players were in double figures with Abbie LeGault scoring 13 and Elise Besonen getting 11.

Surrounded by scorers, Elise Besonen, the U.P. Division 4 Player of the Year, was able to be a true point guard, and she did well setting up her teammates, including her longtime teammate LeGault.

“She wasn’t looking to score very much at all, she was distributing,” coach Besonen said of Elise Besonen. “I thought she played a good game as far as taking care of the ball and distributing.

“(LeGault) played very well, she had some good rebounds.”

Besonen won the 3-point competition at halftime.

Coach Besonen said it was obvious which girls were teammates in high school, like Besonen and LeGault, and the Menominee and St. Ignace girls, as there isn’t much time to get used to each other during the one-day event.

She was impressed with the defense from St. Ignace teammates Emmalee Hart and Marshall.

Coach Besonen said the game was fun to be a part of.

“It was fun to get them together and see them play one more time. I told them one last time in your high school uniform,” she said.

Clark was happy with the experience this game gave the athletes.

“I’m glad they do this, it’s fun for the kids,” he said. “To me after the long year of COVID, it’s nice to have these opportunities back for kids to just enjoy playing a little bit.”

It was the second straight win for Northern Wisconsin, which leads the series 4-3.

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