WOWverines: Mid Peninsula shocks Broncos in district opener

HARRIS – Full of nerves, Kelsey Shope drove the ball downcourt, nearly turning it over, before making a beautiful, but risky pass over a couple Bark River-Harris defenders to Cori Nummilien, Mid Peninsula’s sophomore guard.

For an instant, Nummilien hesitated, perhaps considering whether or not to pass the ball, but with under three seconds on the clock there was no other choice, so she put it up, and jubilation followed.

Forget the Wolverines, these girls are now the Wowverines.

Mid Peninsula shocked Bark River-Harris in a Class D girls district opener Monday night 38-37

“I was praying for that last shot to go in,” said Shope following the biggest game of her life. “It was really intense and I’m so glad that we won. It feels really really good.”

As much as Mid Peninsula won the game on that final shot, Bark River-Harris lost it on their missed free throws down the stretch. The Broncos missed three front ends of a 1-on-1 in the final minutes.

Before that, freshman Sarah Hanson hit a huge three-pointer to tie the game at 34 with just over two minutes remaining.

“I probably shouldn’t have taken it,” admitted Hanson of the timely shot. “It was a great moment though. I’m not sure anyone thought we were going to win this game.”

Caitlyn Frazer who carried her team on her shoulders for much of the second half, took the lead with a driving layup before the Broncos missed a flurry of free throws.

Emily Gudwer’s shot with under 30 seconds to go, tied the game at 36-36 lead and put the pressure on BR-H. Then, the unthinkable happened as Hannah Starnes was fouled bringing the ball up the court.

“With 10 seconds left, we got a foul and we were already in the double bonus. One of our players fouled and I think I had a heart attack,” said Mid Peninsula head coach Bobby Reichel. “And they came down and missed the free throws.”

Starnes made just one of the two free throws giving the Wolverines one last opportunity with 10 seconds on the clock. They capitalized with Nummilien’s shot.

“I was on the bench saying we’re going to lose this game because we can’t hit a free throw – and really it shouldn’t have been that close for us tonight because we missed a lot of free throws,” said Reichel. “But then they came down and the lost because of missed free throws. That’s how important they are.

“It was a really good heads up play at the end. Kelsey came down and made an awesome play, passed it to Cori, and Cori couldn’t have been more heads up, realizing what time was left on the clock. As soon as it left her hands, it looked good.”

As big as the final minutes were, the Wolverines set the tone for an upset early in this contest.

They only scored two points in the first quarter but held the Broncos to seven with a swarming zone that caused deflections and pressure in the Broncos’ halfcourt sets.

Mid Peninsula led 11-9 at halftime, having successfully mucked the game up with physical play and frustrating defense.

Meanwhile the Broncos shooting was way off.

“We didn’t make shots and that would be a pretty big part of the conversation,” said head coach Joel Schultz. “I heard we were 0-for-18 in the second quarter and we missed how many front ends down the stretch? The basketball gods certainly weren’t shining on us tonight.”

Shope was the catalyst for everything Mid Peninsula did offensively and defensively. A responsible ball-handler, Shope led the Wolverines with 11 timely points, always having the insight to bring her team back when it looked like Bark River might pull away.

The performance was especially big because leading scorer Hunter Branstrom was held to just five points and no field goals thanks to a very impressive defensive effort by the Broncos.

“Kelsey Shope really took over the game,” said Reichel. “And she did it with Hunter Branstrom struggling. They played really good defense on her, she never even got an open look, we couldn’t even get an open pass to her. Kelsey took over that game.”

Schultz agreed saying, “Shope played a nice game, she really did.”

It was a 25-25 game after the third, thanks in large part to Frazer’s effort to bring the Broncos back from what was a six point deficit earlier in the frame.

Bark River took its first lead since early in the second, on a Frazer free throw and Starnes layup, but undeterred Mid Peninsula fought back, much to Reichel’s delight.

“What separates us during the season from good teams like Bark River-Harris is generally, they’ll play hard for four quarters. I knew if we played to our full potential we could definitely come out with a win.

“I have to give them credit. I have a lot of respect for Joel Schultz and I think he’s a great coach. It was a great game and I couldn’t be happier for this team because I know a lot of people were doubting us, and rightfully so to a point.”

Mid Peninsula (10-11) moves on to face North Dickinson, Wednesday night. The Nordics defeated Hannahville 73-25 in their district opener, Monday.

“We beat North Dickinson by 20 the first time and lost by about 20 the second time,” said Reichel. “We have to go down there, have a good practice, prepare well and make sure that we go in and play four quarters, and we’ll have a very good chance to win the game.”