Braves smothered by Maroons D

MENOMINEE – A teeming defensive effort and a poised and efficient offense has carried the Menominee girls into the Class B, District 64 title game.

The Maroons smothered Gladstone’s inside game in a 55-45 victory before a vocal crowd on their home floor Wednesday night.

Menominee (13-7) will face Houghton (19-2) for the district title at 6 p.m. Friday on the Maroons’ court.

Every time the Braves tried to work the ball inside, they were covered by Menominee double teams. The defensive pressure locked out the Braves, who sank just 14 of 40 shots.

“The focus was to keep them outside,” Menominee coach Lucas Chouinard said. “We contested every shot. They really beat us inside the last couple of games. We made them shoot from the outside tonight.”

While Menominee socked the game away with a 25 of 36 spree from the line, the Braves suffered a flashback of free throw futility. Gladstone sank just 14 of 28 free throws.

“The last eight games during our streak, we’ve shot well from the free throw line,” coach Karl Dollhopf said. “For whatever reason we couldn’t make them tonight.”

The Maroons led from the opening tip and overcame six turnovers to claim a 10-5 lead after the first quarter.

Menominee stretched the lead to 21-14 in the second quarter before Jess Beaudry sank two free throws to snap a 3 of 13 struggle at the line and Bridget Becker popped in a baseline jumper to cut the lead to 21-18 at halftime.

The Maroons frustrated the Braves into a 2 of 12 shooting slump in the third period while finding the seams in the Gladstone zone.

“Menominee did a lot of good things,” Dollhopf said. “They executed well on offense, played tough defense and made their free throws.”

Lexi Christian nailed a jumper to push the lead to 30-20 with 3:47 left in the third quarter. Beaudry scored off a Callie Jensen steal to cut the margin to 32-25, but Paige Owens answered with an inside hoop and Christian connected from the baseline to jack the Maroon lead to 38-25 early in the fourth quarter.

“Our half-court offense did a good job of breaking them down and getting open jump shots,” Chouinard explained.

Gladstone trimmed the deficit to 44-37 on Jensen’s basket from the corner with 2:40 remaining.

The game turned into a back-and-forth walk to the free throw lines and Allia Stewart was nothing but net on six straight free throws to ice the win.

Menominee sank 15 of 22 free throws in the fourth quarter. A total of 47 fouls were whistled in the game.

The Maroons turned the ball over just nine times after the first quarter.

“We knew their pressure was coming,” said Chouinard. “Our guards did a good job of making correct passes and bring strong with the ball when they were attacking us.”

Menominee connected on a crisp 51 percent of its two-point shots (15 of 29).

Stewart sank 13 of 17 free throws and finished with 15 points, six rebounds and three assists to lead the Maroons. Maddy Anderla was 8 of 10 from the line while collecting 12 points, and Pedersen had nine points and five rebounds. Anderla and Owens each added five rebounds and Christian had three steals.

Beaudry led Gladstone with 17 points. The senior hit on 7 of her 10 free throws and cleared 11 rebounds. Alexis St. Cyr had three steals.

“We were 7-6 at one time,” Dollhopf said. “We grew. The kids improved. We were 14-6 and ranked in the top five. Absolutely it was a successful season.”

Houghton advanced to the title game with a 70-46 win over Escanaba.

“If we score 50 points, we’re pretty tough to beat because we play pretty good half-court defense,” Chouinard said.