Lady Hematites surge past Braves

ISHPEMING – After playing Monday night, the Ishpeming girls basketball team had every reason to be low on gas Tuesday against visiting Gladstone.

It was just the opposite, however.

The Hematites outscored the Braves 28-12 in the second half to rally for a 51-36 non-conference victory.

“I didn’t think we would be tired physically,” IHS head coach Tom Graves said. “I was a little concerned about us mentally, though.

“Any time you you play back-to-back, especially when you’re playing a team like Gladstone, who is very physical and comes at you hard with several different looks, I was concerned mentally.”

Jessica Spencer paced Ishpeming (9-4) with 19 points, 13 in the second half. Tammy Simula added 11, Morgan Skytta chipped in 10 and Gabby Croley pulled down eight rebounds.

Bridget Becker notched eight points for the Braves (7-6). Jess Beaudry came up with nine boards.

With a tenacious 1-3-1 press and a tough 2-3 zone defense, Gladstone – which last played Jan. 22 after some postponements due to poor weather – claimed a 24-23 lead at the half.

“I liked our first half,” veteran Gladstone coach Karl Dollhopf said. “We had a lot of (scoring) opportunities, played hard and our defense was good.

“But we struggled offensively in the third quarter,” he added, noting his team scored just one basket and three points as Ishpeming grabbed a 34-27 advantage.

Simula said the Hematites struggled against Gladstone’s press early.

“But we changed our press offense and began moving the ball better,” she said.

She added the Braves’ 2-3 zone defense – though stingy – was not unpenetrable.

“We’ve been playing against a lot of teams that use a zone,” she said. “We just have to move the ball and use our second cutter.”

Dollhopf said he used the zone in an attempt to hold Spencer at bay.

“We know she likes to get in gaps, so we wanted to try to squeeze her,” he said.

But Spencer notched six points in the third quarter and seven in the fourth to spark the Hematites offensively.

Gladstone got to within 40-36 on a bucket by Alexis St. Cyr and a free throw by Anna Caramella with about four minutes left.

But Ishpeming scored the last 11 points of the contest – four each by Spencer and Skytta – to win going away.

“The girls showed some patience and made some key free throws down the stretch,” Graves said, adding the Hematites committed just 11 turnovers – only one in the second half.

“I liked our resiliency. I could see some frustration with the girls at the half, but we bounced back and handled everything (the Braves) threw at us.”

Gladstone won the junior varsity contest, 65-41.