West Iron’s Jaclyn Waara (closer to the camera) and Megan Miatech battle for the ball with Houghton’s Joey Carroll during action from their Jan. 20 game.
IRON RIVER—The West Pac Conference’s two elite girls basketball teams went head to head here again Dec. 16. Sadly for West Iron, Houghton again came out on top, handing the Wykons a 59-43 loss.
But while the final margin was nearly the same as at the Gremlins’ gym on Dec. 16, the game was vastly different. This time, the Wykons kept pace with Houghton for the first half and even cut a 10-point Houghton lead down to almost nothing.
“We played a good half,” said Coach Mike Dallavalle. “We have nothing to hang our heads about. It was 100% improvement from when we played them up there.
“We played well together, and we played great defense.”
Earlier last week, the Wykons took care of business at Florence with a 68-37 win. That night marked Jaclyn Waara’s return to action after recent surgery, and she powered her team with 25 points.
She was nearly as effective against Houghton, scoring 22 to lead both teams. But the Wykons suffered another blow when starting point guard Kylee Erickson broke her nose late in the game. It’s not known when she can return to action.
West Iron enters this week 7-2 overall and 2-2 in the West Pac—both losses to Houghton. No other team has defeated the Wykons since Kingsford did in December 2010.
But the Gremlins were 3-0 over West Iron in the 2010-11 season (including the regional semis) and are now 2-0 this season. Houghton was ranked No. 3 in the U.P. media’s most recent Class ABC poll—West Iron was fifth.
The first quarter was fairly even, with 5-11 Houghton senior Joey Carroll and WIC’s 5-5 senior Waara leading their teams, Carroll with five points and Waara with six. Waara converted an outlet pass for a brief Wykon lead, but Taylor Dillinger’s lay-up put the Gremlins ahead 9-8 after one.
After Joanna Pellizzer put West Iron up early in the second, Houghton came back with an 11-0 run—including threes by Hannah Hill and Mary Gerard. His team trailing 20-10, Coach Dallavalle called time.
When action resumed, West Iron battled back. Shannon Koski and Alexis Heimerl scored inside, and Waara converted a three-point play to make it 20-17. Houghton built the lead to six, but Pellizzer’s three-pointer and Waara’s steal and lay-up pulled West Iron within one, 25-24, at halftime.
“Houghton went on a little run,” Dallavalle said, “but we got back into it. We held ourselves together and got some good shots in transition. We made the extra pass and found the open person.”
All that changed early in the second half due to Carroll, who hit three straight one-handed hook shots from just right of the basket—at 5-11, the Gremlins’ top scorer is hard to stop.
“Alexis [Heimerl] did a great job on her in the first half,” the coach noted. “In the second half, she managed to get a little separation. Even with Alexis’ arms oustretched, she managed to throw a little hook shot over her.
“She made some tough shots. There’s not much you can do there.”
Baskets by Abby Grier-Welch, Gerard and Dillinger made it 37-26, and West Iron called time. Baskets by Hill and Dillinger built up a 16-point lead. West Iron cut the lead to 10 twice in the fourth quarter but couldn’t get it back to single digits.
Erickson’s injury came with about three minutes left. Her head hit the floor while wrestling a Houghton girl for a loose ball.
Houghton had a big edge in fouls and free throws, with just 10 fouls called to West Iron’s 21. The Gremlins made 19 of 25 at the free throw line to West Iron’s 5 of 7—a 14-point difference.
“Twenty-five free throws to seven,” said Dallavalle. “And I thought we were playing the same type of defense Houghton was.”
The Wykons’ shooting cooled from a torrid 52% in the first half to 30% after halftime—a solid 41% overall. Houghton shot 36% overall but took nine more shots than the Wykons.
Waara led the Wykons with 22 points, Koski added eight and Pellizzer had seven. Koski led with five rebounds, Pellizzer had three assists, and Waara had three steals.
Carroll led Houghton with 21, Dillinger added 16, followed by Hill’s 10.
“It was a great measuring stick for us,” Dallavalle said, “and credit Houghton—they played tough D tonight.”
At Florence, the Wykons took charge from the very start, lifted by Waara’s return. West Iron led 27-8 after the first quarter and 41-17 at the half.
The team’s star senior shined brightly. Right away, Waara had a steal and hit a three-pointer. Before she was done, she had five steals, three triples, four rebounds and two assists—and scored 25 points.
Getting their top player back will make West Iron that much more dangerous the rest of the way. She had plenty of support: Erickson scored 13, Koski had 11 and Pellizzer added nine.
The coach said his team took a deliberate approach in its half-court game, making extra passes to find open shots and not forcing shots. The team banged in eight three-pointers, three apiece from Waara and Erickson.
Heimerl led with seven rebounds, and Pellizzer’s three assists led the Wykons. West Iron shot 39% from the floor and made 10 of their 11 free throws. Florence shot 29% from the floor. Maddy Doll led the Bobcats with 19 points.
• The Wykon gals stay home this week. After hosting Norway on Jan. 23, they host North Dickinson Jan. 26. On Jan. 30, the team visits Kingsford, and they head for Stephenson Jan. 31.
Both Norway and Stephenson are District 95 rivals. The Knights host the tournament starting Feb. 27.
Wykons 27 14 23 4 -- 68
Bobcats 8 9 4 16 -- 37
Gremlins 9 16 19 15 -- 59
Wykons 8 16 8 11 -- 43