Purple Hornets, Vikings take first steps in girls districts

L’ANSE – On paper, the L’Anse Purple Hornets appeared to have their work cut out for them in the opening round of the MHSAA Class C district tournament in girls basketball on Monday.

After all, the visiting Ironwood Red Devils were 12-8 coming in with a player in senior center Emily DeGiorgio who recently surpassed 1,000 points in her career.

But L’Anse was undaunted as it carved out an impressive 59-40 victory to earn a spot in the district championship game on Wednesday against unbeaten Calumet. The Copper Kings held off Hancock 41-33 in Monday’s other semifinal to set up a game to be played in Calumet.

“We weren’t concerned about whom we might meet in the finals,” LHS coach Scott Lloyd said. “We knew we had to look at Ironwood and no one else. I thought the team did that very well. We were focused.”

Red Devils’ coach Kari Jacquart felt the Hornets came out strong and never let up.

“We were mostly concerned about their size, we didn’t know if they had the depth,” she said. “But we caught them on a good shooting night and that was unfortunate for us.”

Sophomore guard Sarah Dix keyed the Hornets to a 26-21 halftime lead, netting eight points in the second quarter after L’Anse led just 13-11 through one quarter.

“Sarah Dix played an outstanding game on offense and defense,” Lloyd said. “That might have been her best game.”

Playing without standout forward Alexis Francois, the Hornets had to rely on seniors Lauren Elmblad and Abbey Hendrickson and sophomore Taylor Brown to patrol under the hoop.

The 6-foot Elmblad turned in a solid effort with six points, nine rebounds and five blocked shots. Hendrickson tossed in 10 points, while Brown had 11 more.

Dix led the 8-13 winners with 22 points, four assists and three steals.

DeGiorgio was pretty much the offense for the Gogebic County squad with 19 points and game-high 11 rebounds.

Baraga 41, Dollar Bay 37

At Ontonagon, Dollar Bay senior Carli Daavettila drained a 3-pointer in the fourth quarter to reach 1,000 career points, but it wasn’t enough to prevent Baraga from advancing in the Class D district.

Coach Keith Willis’ Vikings, who had struggled in recent weeks with hitting shots of any kind, made 4 of 6 free throws with the game in doubt.

“I thought we played with a lot more poise than we had been playing,” Willis said. “We had valuable minutes from our bench. We still didn’t shoot the ball real well. We played better on defense.”

The Vikings stunned the exuberant crowd from the opening tip as junior Justice Kinnunen drained a 3-pointer just 19 seconds in. After Daavettila was fouled shooting a 3 and she made all three free throws, Kinnunen dropped another 3.

Daavettila, who led all scorers with 20 points, added a layup as she had five of her team’s seven first-quarter points. Junior Ashtin Lindemann added a 3 for Vikings, who finished the first quarter with a 16-7 lead.

Junior Kerstyn Clisch extended the Vikings’ lead to 11 points, 18-7, right out of the gates in the second quarter. The Blue Bolts shaved that lead down to four, 18-14, thanks to a 3 from senior Ciara Shelp along with a pair of free throws from Daavettila.

It took a minute into the third quarter, but Clisch hit a jumper to regain a three-point lead for the Vikings. Mleko added a layup as the Vikings started to get solid minutes from their bench.