Flivvers ante up, rally past Braves

GLADSTONE – The Kingsford Flivvers showed they are a glass half-full kind of team Wednesday evening as they dispatched Gladstone 58-51 in a Great Northern Conference matchup.

Down by nine points at halftime and looking tentative, the Flivvers exploded in the second half, erased the deficit and held on down the stretch.

It was 10-10 after the first quarter with senior Alison Austin pacing the Braves in her last game on the Gladstone hardwood. She had six points in the first quarter en route to a career-high 14 point effort. The Braves patiently handled the well-executed press of the Flivvers and embarked on a 9-0 run in the second half culminating in back-to-back baskets from Sadie Strasser, the second coming right off a steal. Gladstone took a 25-16 lead into the half and all appeared to be going well.

For Kingsford coach Mike Cross, it was nothing he hadn’t seen before.

“It’s been how this team is a little bit,” he said. “I told the girls, imagine what we’d be like if we looked like that the entire game. But our kids do make some pretty good adjustments to what they’re seeing and they do a great job of stepping up. The pressure was big in the second half and offensively, we executed.

Kingsford came out flying to start the third quarter, and determinedly overwhelmed the Braves. They stepped up their press and forced turnovers and suddenly shots that missed the mark in the first half were swishing in effortlessly. The Flivvers went on a 14-2 run to start the quarter getting six points from Carlee Benzie and six from Andrea Roell and within three minutes, had a 30-27 lead.

“I thought we played our hearts out in the first half and handled their pressure but in the second half we got rattled,” said Braves coach Karl Dollhopf. “They came at us really hard and we had back-to-back turnovers so I had to burn some time outs. That’s partly due to our youth, but we might see this team again hopefully in the districts and we have to respond better to that.

“We talked about it at halftime, how they were going to come out hard at us and we handled the first three minutes would make a huge difference in the game. We didn’t handle it.”

Roell racked up a career-high 25 points with seven rebounds for the Flivvers (14-4, 6-2 GNC). Down the stretch she was 7-for-8 from the line and went 11-15 for the game.

“It was a quiet 25 points for her, if there is such a thing but she did a nice job converting,” said Dollhopf. “They didn’t surprise us or do anything different from what we thought they would. I’d just like to have that third quarter back.”

Gladstone was able to snap out of its funk midway through the third quarter, but the Braves never regained the lead and Kingsford’s 9-of-10 free throw shooting in the fourth quarter ensured they would escape with a victory.

“The first half, we were 0-7 free throw shooting. We did a much better job in the second half and Andrea was able to knock them down. She did an outstanding job at the line for us,” said Cross. “Gladstone is a dangerous team though. We knew it coming in. Karl (Dollhopf) does a great job with them.”

Dollhopf said his team’s third quarter troubles could be largely chalked up to inexperience.

“That sense of urgency and understanding when it’s a key possession is something we’ve struggled with all year, just being able to recognize that,” he said. “Sometime you’ll get that from a veteran team or at least a couple more seniors. So hopefully, we’ll learn from it.”

The Braves won the JV game 50-34 and the freshman game 51-33.

Gladstone (10-9, 3-5 GNC) wraps up the regular season tonight at Iron Mountain before opening district play Monday night against Menominee at Kingsford.