Balanced Braves Clip Black Bears

GLADSTONE – It took a few minutes for the buckets to start falling but once they did Gladstone never looked back en-route to a 67-24 win over Big Bay de Noc on Thursday.

Both teams were scoreless for the first three minutes but Gladstone’s Christine Sharon broke the drought with back-to-back buckets to give the Braves a 4-0 lead. The Black Bears responded with two buckets of their own to tie the game but the Braves scored the next seven points and never relequinshed the lead.

“We had a plan going in and that was to get everyone involved and stay active throughout the game and everyone bought in and I thought the effort was there tonight,” said Braves head coach Karl Dollhopf. “I thought we did a good job of sharing the ball on offense and I thought we did a lot of positive things.”

For the second straight game, the Braves offense had good balance across the board. Callie Jensen paced the scoring with 16 points, Lexi Hongisto netted 13, Bridget Becker had 12 and jayvee call-up Ashley Edwardsen added 10 points.

“I think anytime you get four players in double figures that’s pretty good balance and you’re doing something right,” Dollhopf said. “We weren’t making a lot of free throws but we still had four people in double figures.

“I like the fact that we’re not relying on one person and we have some people that can make that perimeter jump shot which helps you against the zone. You have to be able to do that and you have to be able to offensive rebound.”

Jensen was a big part of the Braves outside shooting attack. The senior guard connected on three 3-pointers, including two in the fourth quarter. Big Bay de Noc head coach Ryan Knoph said his team played a 2-3 zone because of Gladstone’s size but unfortunately the Black Bears couldn’t slow the Braves from the outside.

“They started hitting those shots from the outside and they’re big inside so I was scared to switch out of 2-3 because they would just push it down low, so I figured 2-3 is the best defense we could play,” Knoph said. “I just stuck with that and hoped they would miss a shot but they shot very, very exceptional. They were getting all the rolls in the second half.”

Big Bay was playing with a short bench after losing Kelsi Stapleton for the season with a knee injury. Mariah Yonker was also out with a knee injury and Patience Harris missed the game with a bad ankle.

Harris was averaging 10 points-per-game and Yonker was grabbing eight boards a game. Knoph noted their absence was a big loss, but said he was impressed with the play of freshmen Ariel Cousineau and Marissa Rochefort, who played their first game on varsity.

The Braves also had two jayvee call-ups in sophomores Edwardsen and Caitlyn Leisner who scored two points. Dollhopf doesn’t expect to keep the duo up all season but said he was impressed with their play.

“I thought they both did a really nice job playing and helping out our depth,” he said. “Ashley had some break out buckets, she had some offensive rebounds for put-backs, she looked like a varsity player. Caitlyn Leisner was outstanding defensively.”

Sharon led the Braves with eight rebounds. Anna Carmella paced the offense with four assists and Alexis St. Cyr added four steals.

Gladstone improves to 4-2 on the season while Big Bay drops to 0-6. Both teams don’t play again until after Christmas. The Black Bears are back in action on Jan. 3 as they hit the road to play Mid Peninsula. Gladstone resumes play on Dec. 28 with a road battle against Houghton.

Dollhopf said he expects a battle with Houghton. The last three match-ups have been decided by two buzzer-beaters (Houghton wins) and an eight-point Gladstone win. The teams will also be in the same district for the first time this season.

Gladstone’s freshmen team beat Big Bay de Noc’s jayvee squad 60-13.