Cougars streak ends as Hematites win attrition battle

By Steve Brownlee

Marquette Mining Journal

ISHPEMING – Superior Central isn’t a team that will win many battles of attrition.

With just eight players on its roster, the Cougars girls basketball lost two of them due to fouling out as Ishpeming rode out a 48-45 victory at the Hematites gym on Tuesday night.

The win ended a six-game losing streak for the Hematites against SC, dating back to November 2010. That was not something lost on the Ishpeming players.

“We know they have some very good players, and it’s been a long time since we’ve beaten them,” said IHS junior guard Tammy Simula, who contributed team highs of 16 points and 10 rebounds.

The defeat was Superior Central’s first in the regular season since a 50-43 loss at Bark River-Harris on Feb. 9, 2012. The Cougars had reeled off 30 straight wins in the regular season coming into Tuesday’s game.

Except for a split of games each other, neither team has lost a game this season as Ishpeming improved to 5-1 and SC slipped to 7-1. The Cougars won a season-opening matchup between the teams in Eben, 56-53.

On Tuesday, SC lost Brianna Emard and top scorer Teslyn Tyner in the final 30 seconds.

Much earlier in the fourth quarter, though, the Hematites lost their leading scorer, junior Jessica Spencer, when she drew her fifth foul with 6:24 to go.

However, Ishpeming not only had a longer bench with 12 players in total, but several like Simula stepped up to fill the void.

“Tammy had the game of her career,” first-year Hematites coach Tom Graves said. “She attacked the basket hard and got some second-chance baskets.”

Fellow guard Jessica Penhale, just a sophomore, added 11 points and a pair of crucial free throws in the game’s waning seconds.

“Jessica Penhale is getting better and better every game,” Graves said.

Nursing a 45-44 lead with 2 1/2 minutes to go, Ishpeming played keepaway, passing the ball around the perimeter until Emard was forced to foul Simula with 29.5 seconds left.

That knocked the SC player out of the game.

Though Simula missed the front end of a one-and-one free throw situation, the Cougars were unable to convert when they got the ball back, meaning they had to foul the Hematites again.

This time it was Tyner picking up her fifth foul with 13.5 seconds left as Penhale attempted to bring the ball over halfcourt.

This time, Penhale sank both ends of her one-and-one, even with a Cougar timeout interrupting her shots, to put IHS up 47-44.

Each team made one of two free throws on possessions during the next 10 seconds, giving Freberg a chance to force overtime with a shot three-quarters of the length of the court at the buzzer that slammed against the backboard about a foot left of the rim.

Tyner finished with 14 points and five rebounds as fellow senior Vanessa Freberg contributed 15 points and 13 rebounds.

“We just didn’t take care of the ball and we didn’t shoot well,” SC coach Greg Trowbridge said. “Don’t take anything away from Ishpeming, they played well, but we had plenty of chances to win it and we didn’t take advantage.”

Though Tyner was whistled for three fouls in the first half, so were Spencer and Ishpeming teammate Gabby Croley, an important presence for the Hematites on the inside.

“Our defense was sluggish, and we let them dribble around us consistently,” Trowbridge said.

From their past struggles, Graves knew his team was in for a challenge.

“They’ve got some great players, and they don’t get rattled,” he said about Cougars like Tyner and Freberg who are each in their fourth season of playing on the varsity.

“We know how they can score, how they can rebound and how they can defend. We just had to match their intensity. We wanted to keep the game a little faster, a little bit more uptempo.

“I thought we played better defensively in the second half, especially in the fourth quarter when we locked down on Freberg and only allowed them to score five points.”

With Freberg and Tyner keying a trio of 3-point plays – one the traditional basket-and-one and two on shots from beyond the arc – SC ran out to an early 12-4 lead.

After that, however, neither team held a lead of more than five points for the final three-plus quarters.

SC still held a 13-10 advantage after the first quarter before the Hematites came back for a 26-23 cushion at intermission. SC then retook a 40-39 lead by the end of quarter No. 3.

Ishpeming took the lead for good at 44-42 when Penhale sank her team’s only 3-pointer with 5:27 left, though SC was never more than a possession behind the rest of the way.

The Hematites also won the JV game, 54-22.