As Coach Jeff Syrjanen calls out advice in back and a packed grandstand watches intently, Forest Park’s Ana Cornelia tries to stop West Iron’s Kylee Erickson during their Jan. 6 game. The Wykons’ Megan Miatech (44) gets in position for a pass.
IRON RIVER—There’s more to West Iron’s girls team than Jaclyn Waara, and Forest Park saw proof of that Jan. 6.
The Lady Trojans and their fans saw Shannon Koski score 10 of her team-high 16 points in the fourth quarter as the Wykons turned back the Lady Trojans 51-48 here.
The win plus a 55-26 runaway at Hancock on Jan. 3 boost the Wykons’ record to 6-1 overall and 2-1 in the West Pac Conference. They won both despite missing leading scorer Jaclyn Waara, who is recovering from surgery on her thyroid. Coach Mike Dallavalle expects Waara to get cleared to return to action before long.
With Koski taking over the lead scorer role and everybody else pitching in, the Wykons didn’t miss a step. Or a win.
Against Forest Park, neither team led by more than seven, and it was usually a one-possession game. Lexi Gussert got Forest Park off to a hot start by hitting a two and a three and assisting on Audrey Sholander’s hoop: Two Gussert free throws and Kendra Campbell’s basket from the lane put the Trojans ahead 13-6.
West Iron stayed close. Late in the first quarter, Joanna Pellizzer was fouled twice and made all four free throws. Megan Miatech’s three early in the second quarter tied it at 13-all.
Kylee Erickson’s three gave the Wykons their first lead, and Miatech’s basket put the Wykons up 20-17. Just after another Gussert three tied it, Alexis Heimerl’s basket put West Iron up 26-24 at halftime.
Dallavalle said the Wykons didn’t execute well in the first half. “We weren’t setting good screens, weren’t active offensively.” But they got a big boost from Miatech, who scored all seven of her points in the second quarter. “Those were big points off the bench,” said her coach.
Forest Park went back in front early in the second half on baskets by Ana Cornelia and Gussert. West Iron came back on two Koski free throws, baskets by Heimerl and Koski and another Koski freebie. It was all knotted at 35 after three.
After a scoring lull early in the fourth quarter, West Iron made its move. Koski scored from the left side. After a Trojan shot missed, Pellizzer grabbed the rebound and passed to Koski, who scored on the fast break. Wykons, 39-36, and Forest Park wanted time with 4:31 left.
West Iron was whistled for three fouls in the next two minutes (including Heimerl’s fifth), but the Lady Trojans made just 2 of 5 free throws. Then Koski drove the lane for a basket, stole the ball and passed to Pellizzer, who put West Iron up 45-38.
But the game was far from over. Gussert picked off a Wykon pass with 90 seconds left and seconds later hit a three from the right side; 47-45. Erickson was fouled and made both free throws, but WIC’s next free throw missed and wound up in Gussert’s hands. Soon, she found herself open on the right again and hit her fourth triple of the night, cutting WIC’s lead to 49-48 with 13 seconds left.
The Trojans had to foul, though, and Erickson made both freebies; 51-48. FP’s final shot was by Gussert from the left corner. This time she missed, and the game was over.
“We’re very aware that Lexi is a very talented player,” Dallavalle said. “We did everything in our power to stop her, but she’s bound to hit some shots.” Pellizzer got the assignment “and made her work for what she got.”
West Iron also picked up its attack in the second half, setting good screens and getting the ball to girls who were open. In the second half, Koski got the passes inside.
At the end, West Iron made its free throws—7 of 8 in the last three minutes (Koski, 3 of 4; Erickson, 4 of 4)—while keeping the Lady Trojans off the line.
Koski led the Wykons with 17 points—10 in the pivotal fourth quarter—and got scoring support from Pellizzer (9), Erickson (9), Heimerl (8) and Miatech (7). Heimerl was credited with six rebounds, and Koski had five.
Gussert scored 25, but no other Trojan scored more than six. “Kylee [Erickson] did a great job on Audrey Sholander, keeping her out of the paint.”
In fact, Dallavalle continued, all his girls contested shots and battled hard. “Anytime anybody tried to drive to the lane, we helped early. When there was a loose ball, we had one, two, maybe three girls diving on the floor.
“That’s what these rivalry games are about—desire. We played our hearts out tonight. And so did Crystal Falls. They never gave up and kept battling. But it’s always nice to come out with a win.”
At Hancock, the Wykon girls had no trouble running past Hancock 55-26.
Waara’s absence didn’t have any effect on the offense, which ran up a 27-4 halftime lead. Koski and Erickson led the Wykons to a big first half. The Wykons moved up and down the court quickly and found open shooters. “We made sure to pressure the guards and kept the game up-tempo. We crashed the boards hard, and everybody had a really good night.”
Koski scored 20 to lead West Iron. Erickson scored 13, followed by Miatech (6), Emily Aho and Pellizzer (5 each). West Iron also dominated on the boards, 61-36, with Heimerl pulling down 16 caroms. Miatech had four steals.
Kirsten Berg scored 12 to lead the Bulldogs, including a trio of threes.
• The Wykons visit North Dickinson on Jan. 10 and make the short trip to Florence on Jan. 16. Then they get ready to take on Houghton at home Jan. 20—the Gremlins dealt WIC its only loss, 78-63, back on Dec. 16.
Wykons 17 10 17 11 -- 55
Bulldogs 3 1 7 15 -- 26
Trojans 13 11 11 13 -- 48
Wykons 10 16 9 16 -- 51