IM spells triple trouble

ESCANABA – The Iron Mountain girls blew whatever adjectives a 1-10 team conjures up out of the water Friday night. The Mountaineers spelled triple trouble for Escanaba right from the start and rolled to a 47-34 non-conference victory on parents night.

“I tell everybody, we’re the best 1-10 team in the U.P. because we’ve lost about six 1-2 point games. We’ve been in every single game, but tonight we got over the hump,” said Iron Mountain coach John Hogberg. “We finally got a decent lead and we hung onto it. We made our free throws at the end and we didn’t turn the ball over.”

The Mountaineers also employed a zone defense that confounded the Eskymos.

Escanaba got off 62 shots but only 13 went in. The offense struggled for good looks throughout the game and only had 11 points at the half, going over six minutes without scoring in the second quarter.

“13-of-62 shooting isn’t going to get it done, but we haven’t seen extended zone all year long for that amount of time,” said Escanaba coach Kelly O’Connell. “We struggled. We didn’t attack it very well and I’ll take responsibility for that.”

The Mountaineers were powered throughout the game by hot-hand Katelynn Johnson. Making her home on the perimeter, she knocked down five triples for 21 points.

“Early in the season, Katelynn broke her wrist in the last practice of the volleyball season,” said Hogberg. “She didn’t get to shoot for six weeks and missed the first five games. Now she’s getting her rhythm back and tonight she showed what she can do.”

Inside, the quick and intense Abby Gerhard dashed for 10 points, drawing a lot of fouls in the process. Both Ashley Cook and Sydney Gafner were lost to fouls in the fourth quarter, leaving the Eskymos with just six players.

O’Connell said stopping Johnson was a focus coming in.

“We tried to take Johnson out of the game,” he said. “We didn’t want to give her any good looks, but she had five three’s. I thought in the first quarter we didn’t give her many looks.

“We battled back though. We were down 12 at the half and got within seven. We competed hard.”

Michelle LaFave, despite dealing with heavy attention and a shot that was off, still led the Eskymos with a 19-point effort and 10 rebounds. Zoe Berquist added 11 points, giving the Eskymos some tough minutes.

“Zoe battled tonight. She rebounded well and gave us some real good minutes,” said O’Connell. “Michelle didn’t shoot well tonight and when she doesn’t shoot well, we don’t compete. We’re not real polished on the offensive end, but it’s not for lack of effort. We play hard and compete.”

After the half, Iron Mountain extended their lead to 14 right off the bat with a hard drive to the basket by Gerhard. LaFave answered with a 3-pointer but Johnson came right back with a rare four-point play when she was knocked over by Cook while sinking a triple.

“Our girls, even the games they lost, it’s never been due to a lack of effort,” said Hogberg. “They play as hard as they can play. They go after loose balls, they run the floor well and they play pretty good defense. It’s nice that they were rewarded tonight because they give me everything they’ve got and they never complain.”

Iron Mountain also won the freshman game 48-35 to remain undefeated while Escanaba took the jayvee game 43-38.

Iron Mountain (2-10) travels to Ishpeming Monday while Escanaba (3-10) hosts Houghton on Friday.