West Iron County prevails
By BURT ANGELI
IRON MOUNTAIN – West Iron County won a defensive struggle with Stephensonin the other Class C District 95 girls basketball semifinal Monday.
The Wykons blanked the Eagles in the first quarter and staved off a fourth-quarter threat in a 33-31 battle royale.
“These girls, both teams, played such hard defense the whole game,” Wykons coach Mike Dallavalle said. “This was just a gutsy, gutsy game for both teams.”
Stephenson (10-11), which slammed the Wykons 47-31 last week in Iron River, trailed 3-0 after the first quarter and 15-9 at halftime. West Iron built a nine-point lead in the fourth quarter but Stephenson rallied to within the final score with 1:03 remaining.
“I thought we came out dead,” Stephenson Coach Missy Wangerin said. “We didn’t play with the intensity we had Thursday (against West Iron).
“I told the girls over the weekend he’s going to come back with a bigger and better game plan. He’s a good coach and has been coaching for a lot of years. We knew he was coming with something and we weren’t ready.”
Kylee Erickson’s 14 points and Emilie Christensen’s 12 rebounds paced the Wykons (11-10).
Stephenson’s Kelsey Johnson tallied 13 points and Lexi Johnson added 11. Tiffany Wangerin snared 11 rebounds and four steals.
The Eagles coach also cited poor shooting, turnovers (24) and foul trouble.
“We had them pretty worn out last week,” coach Wangerin said. “For this game, they had us worn out.”
Dallavalle agreed with the Eagles coach on the intensity factor.
“We just didn’t look like we were either ready to play defense or wanted to (last week),” Dallavalle said. “Tonight we were both – ready and wanted to.”
Sierra Rasmussen came off the WIC bench to produce a field goal and free throw in the final minute for the first quarter’s only points,
“It looked like a lay-up drill without any lay-ups,” Dallavalle said of the first-quarter woes. “It was getting frustrating. But playing that hard (man-to-man) defense and you end the quarter 3-0, you have to consider that a moral victory.
“Sierra gave us a spark and we needed that.”
Dallavalle also credited another reserve in Sydnie Mazurek. The sophomore reserve was hobbled by a bad ankle but joined Christensen, Megan Miatech and Rasmussen in plugging the middle.
“Defensively, those girls are quick and athletic out there,” Dallavalle said. “Stephenson creates some mismatch problems. Those were critical minutes we got out of Sydnie tonight.”
In the fourth quarter, Erickson drained six straight points for a 32-23 Wykon lead at 2:35. The Eagles responded with an 8-1 run over the next minute as Kelsey Johnson canned a triple with 1:03 left.
Sophomore Alexis Golfis converted a free throw with 1:12 remaining for the Wykon point.
Over the final 63 seconds, West Iron missed four free throws but smothered Stephenson scoring chances.
“I ‘m thrilled with the way these girls hung in together defensively,” Dallavalle said. “There was tough rebounding in there.”
West Iron County and Iron Mountain, a 53-39 winner over Norway in the other district semifinal, will clash at 6 p.m. Wednesday for the championship.
West Iron opened the season in early December by whipping Iron Mountain 55-37. However, the Mountaineers played without sharpshooter Katelynn Johnson (wrist injury).
“Katelynn is a great player and they’re playing pretty good basketball right now,” Dallavalle said. “Every year it’s the same story. We beat them handily early and then by the end of the year John has them playing really well.”
Stephenson 0 9 13 9 – 31
West Iron 3 12 11 7 – 33
STEPHENSON: Kelsey Johnson 13, Miller 1, Lexi Johnson 11, Tiffany Wangerin 6. FT: 7-16. F: 24.
WEST IRON COUNTY: Mazurek 1, Golfis 3, Christensen 6, Erickson 14, Rasmussen 8, Miatech 1. FT: 16-31. F: 21. Fouled out: Pellizzer (6:28, 4th).
3-point FG: Kelsey Johnson, Wangerin, Erickson. FG shooting: West Iron 8-54, Stephenson 11-41. Rebounding: Stephenson 43 (Wangerin 11, Lexi Johnson 8, Chelsea Tourcotte 6), West Iron 49 (Christensen 12).