Braves squash Maroons’ rally

GLADSTONE – The Gladstone Braves built a 26-10 halftime lead over the Menominee Maroons Thursday night, and then got to the free throw line enough to stave off the Maroons’ late runs to earn a 49-39 Great Northern Conference victory.

Gladstone (7-5, 2-3 GNC) put together a 10-0 run in the first quarter, and Menominee’s Karli Barley picked up two fouls within the first minute of the contest, which added to the Maroons’ (6-8, 0-5 GNC) early offensive struggles.

“We dug ourselves a hole in the first half,” said Menominee coach Lucas Chouinard. “We got good looks, we’re just not hitting our outside shots, which really hurts.”

The first quarter ended with the Braves up 17-6, and Lexi Hongisto accounted for six of their 17.

The Braves’ offense sputtered a little in the second quarter, but their defense held Menominee to just four points and they skated into the half with a comfortable lead.

“We came out with the kind of defensive intensity that we needed to,” said Gladstone coach Karl Dollhopf. “We were happy with holding them to 10 first half points, that was good.”

Gladstone earned its biggest lead early in the third quarter when they went up 29-10. However, Menominee got their offense rolling in the third, and a surge led by Amanda Pederson got them back into the game. Heading into the fourth, the Maroons were only down by 12.

“If we had put together four quarters the way we played in the second half, I think it would have been a different story,” Chouinard said. “We played more aggressively on defense.”

Just minutes into the fourth, a quick bucket from Menominee’s Paige Owens and some free throws by Allison Barley brought the lead down to 36-26, and the Maroons looked poised to possibly escape with a victory.

But one of their players was called for a flagrant foul for unsportsmanlike conduct, and then was ejected for the game after making contact with the referee and receiving a technical foul. That seemed to slow the tempo down, and take the wind out of Menominee’s sails.

Gladstone did a great job of getting to the free throw line for the remainder of the fourth, and it inevitably padded their lead enough to earn them the victory.

“Menominee’s aggressive play kind of hurt us,” Dollhopf said. “We knew they were going to fight back, and they weren’t going to lay down. We were fortunate at the end to be able to put some free throws together and get the win.”

Hongisto paced the Braves with 12 points, followed by Callie Jensen with 11. Alison Austin and Jess Beaudry both had five rebounds, and Austin made some crucial free throws down the stretch.

Gladstone also took the jayvee game, 59-41. The Braves resume Tuesday, hosting Ishpeming.