Defense, free throw shooting lifts Braves in district opener at Kingsford

KINGSFORD – Gladstone, ratcheting up the defense in the second half and hitting all but one fourth-quarter free throw, subdued Kingsford 53-43 in a Class B District 64 girls basketball district opener Monday.

Over the game’s final four minutes, Gladstone outscored Kingsford 9-2. Seven of those nine points came on free throws.

“At the end we made some free throws,” Gladstone Coach Karl Dollhopf said. “The girls were going to the free throw line making one-and-ones. That’s huge whenever you can do that.”

After Gladstone tallied eight straight points – four on free throws from junior Bridget Becker – for a 50-41 edge, Kingsford’s Maria Wiltzius broke a three-minute drought with a bucket at 1:13.

“We haven’t changed much defensively,” said Dollhopf, noting his Braves played zone and man defenses. “We pride ourselves on the nights when we’re shooting bad we have to play defense. We’ve been doing that and rebounding the ball.”

Gladstone’s defense created 26 Kingsford turnovers. The Flivvers tallied 16 second-half points.

“They’re just a solid defensive team,” Flivver coach Mike Cross said.

“Karl does a great job with them and, hopefully, they can win this district.”

Becker led the Braves with a season-high matching 15 points, followed by Christine Sharon, nine; Callie Jensen, eight, and Jess Beaudry, eight with seven rebounds and four steals.

Kingsford’s Courtney Qualley drained 12 first-half points and finished with 17. Amber Larson chipped in nine – two in the second half.

“Qualley had a great game,” Dollhopf said. “She shot the ball extremely well. We just paid attention to her in the second half.”

The Gladstone coach also noted the paint area where the 5-foot-10 Larson and 5-9 Beaudry battled.

“They’re both competitive and all-around players,” Dollhopf said. “They didn’t let Jess have any easy touches. That’s just a good match-up. They just neutralize each other.”

Gladstone hammered out a 12-point lead late in the second quarter but Kingsford rallied behind a pair of Qualley treys to narrow the halftime gap to 32-27.

The teams combined for 30 turnovers in the sloppy first half. But Gladstone reduced its total from 14 to four in the second half.

“We had little lulls where we will play good defense, rebound and then turn it over, and that drives you nuts,” said Dollhopf, noting his team survived despite Beaudry picking up three first-half fouls. “We had a little bit of that in the first half.

“We regained our composure in the second half. We did a better job of taking care of the ball.”

Kingsford’s pressure defense, a staple in big wins this season, made an impact only in the second quarter.

“They brought it hard,” Dollhopf said. “Their pressure was real good in that second quarter.”

In addition to an excess of turnovers and missed shots, Cross also cited Gladstone on the boards.

“If they miss a shot, they got an offensive board and quite a few of those were putbacks,” Cross said. “That’s what kills you.”

Gladstone (15-6) travels to Menominee Wednesday for the district semifinal. They split during the regular season, with the Braves winning on the Maroons’ court.

The young Flivvers (8-12), graduating two players including starter Hannah Tresedder, can now look forward to next season.

“Gladstone has got three solid seniors that really contribute,” Cross said. “I’m excited about our team next year. We’ve got some good kids coming back and we’re going to be a solid team.”