Balanced Braves stifle Flivvs

GLADSTONE – Balanced scoring, stellar bench play and a big second quarter run propelled Gladstone to a 59-51 win over Kingsford on Tuesday.

The Braves led for most of the first quarter but fell behind 17-16 with 5:33 left in the second quarter after Courtney Qualley of Kingsford drained a 3-pointer. That lead didn’t last long as Gladstone erupted for an 11-0 run and kept the Flivvers off the board until the final 40 seconds of the half. Braves head coach Karl Dollhopf said he was happy with to see the offense click.

“I thought we played with a lot of energy, we had good balance,” Dollhopf said. “I’m glad to see the 59 points, I was kind of starting to wonder about scoring. It’s nice to see some of the players get in their rhythm shooting it. I thought we had good bench performance. For us it was a nice conference win.”

Bridge Becker was one of the players that got into a rhythm shooting the ball. The junior netted 10 points, including six during the Braves second quarter run. The Flivvers were trapping Gladstone and that left Becker open on the wing, where she made three long two-pointers.

“It’s nice when you can hit the outside shot because it opens other things up and I thought we did a good job of identifying the shooter and finding her and that helped big,” Dollhopf said.

The Braves kept the heat on in the third quarter, building a 14-point lead into the final eight minutes.

Kingsford hung around however, cutting the Braves lead to 52-47 with three minutes to play. Flivvers head coach MIke Cross said his team had the right intensity in the fourth quarter but the defensive energy wasn’t their all night.

“I thought at the beginning of the game we didn’t do as good as a job attacking and being aggressive on defense,” he said. It got better in the fourth quarter. I thought Gladstone did a really nice job of handling any pressure we gave them for most of the game. They really hit some big shots and it kind of took the wind out of our sails as we were creeping closer in the fourth quarter.”

One of those big plays came after the Braves attempted to throw a long pass on the in-bounds to break the press. Kingsford, trailing by seven, intercepted the pass but the Braves trapped the ball-handler and Alexis St. Cyr came up with the steal and forwarded it to Anna Caramella who finished the lay-up and was fouled.

“I guess that mental toughness part of it, I thought it showed pretty good,” Dollhopf said. “Out of adversity, when something bad happened, we didn’t hang our head and we came back and a lot of times we kind of got out of it clean.”

That basket at the end was two of Caramella’s team high 12 points. The junior guard was part of a Gladstone bench that provided a huge boost offensively. Senior center Anna Wulf also chipped in nine points off the bench. Dollhopf said the Braves will rely more on their reserves with starting forward Jess Beaudry out with an injury.

“I thought Anna Wulf came off the bench and she had a big inside presence, I thought Anna Caramella came off the bench and played well at the point guard position and that’s really what we needed, we needed some performances,” he said.

Kingsford staring intentionally fouling with around three minutes left in hopes to climb back into the game. The Braves were only 12-of-22 from the free-throw but made the shots when the needed to. Kingsford struggled to keep St. Cyr and Caramella out of the lane. The back-court duo combined to score 19 points, mostly off lay-ups.

“I just didn’t think we did a very good job of containing the dribble, off the dribble and then we didn’t do a very good job of helping each other,” Cross said. “I have no doubt if we sunk in and helped they would’ve kicked to the outside and probably buried that shot to.”

Gladstone improves to 3-2 overall and 1-1 in the GNC. Kingsford drops to 2-3 and 0-1 in the GNC. The Braves host Big Bay de Noc on Thursday.

Gladstone won the jayvee match-up 65-21.