Joanna Pellizzer (right), with a little help from Alexis Heimerl, has this rebound well in hand during last week’s game at Forest Park. Kylee Erickson is in back.
IRON RIVER—Coach Mike Dallavalle didn’t have to go much beyond the obvious to explain West Iron County’s 62-45 loss at Forest Park Feb. 9.
“They outplayed us,” he said shortly after the game. “They deserved to win tonight.
“They forced some turnovers and did a great job on the boards. We just didn’t take care of the ball well.”
It was a rare off night for the Blue and White and only the Wykons’ third loss of the season—the other two were to Houghton. Earlier last week, they rolled past L’Anse 71-47.
West Iron enters this week 13-3 overall and 3-2 in West Pac Conference play.
Forest Park’s biggest statistical edge was shooting—they made 38% of their twos and threes (21 of 55) to West Iron’s 28% (17 of 61).
Dallavalle said his team’s biggest problem is that they didn’t attack the Trojans’ zone effectively with reversals, touches and passes to open players, as they had recently.
“Tonight, it wasn’t there. One or two passes and a quick shot. A pass inside and a force-up. It just didn’t look like the team we’ve seen share the ball the past couple games.”
In their first encounter—a 51-48 West Iron win on Jan. 6—Wykon steals led to fast transition baskets. “We looked a step slow tonight,” Dallavalle said.
West Iron stayed close for three quarters, due in large part to Shannon Koski, who led the Wykons with 15 points, including six in the second quarter and seven in the third.
“Shannon did a great job keeping us in the game,” Dallavalle said, “hitting those 15-footers against that zone.”
Alexis Heimerl scored 10 for the Wykons, and Kylee Erickson and Jaclyn Waara both scored eight. At first, Erickson wore a mask to protect her broken nose, but she abandoned it during the first half.
Trojans Coach Jeff Syrjanen said keeping Waara in check was important. “If you can hold Waara under double digits,” he said, “you’ve got a chance to win. I think she struggled to get good shots.”
The Wykons worked hard to beat their cross-county rival, said their coach. “These girls have been performing at a pretty high level for quite a while. Trying to maintain that against a very good Forest Park team … and Forest Park, they were ready for us tonight. We weren’t.”
On Feb. 6, the story was completely different when the Wykons met L’Anse: West Iron jumped away to a 17-2 start and never looked back.
The Wykons moved the ball well and had their transition game working, said their coach. They made the most of their height advantage, got outlet passes and attacked the basket—the keys to their recent success.
Several times, the Wykons found that high gear they had in that 91-point night at Stephenson. “It looked like we never left that game,” Dallavalle said.
L’Anse rallied back at times. In the second quarter, after Waara went to the bench with two fouls, sophomore Madi Swanson scored 11 points in a 13-5 rally that cut WIC’s lead to 36-20 at halftime. In the third quarter, Kirstie Larson scored six in a row.
But this one was never in doubt. West Iron came back with a 15-1 blitz and led by as much as 32 in the fourth quarter.
Waara led the rampaging offense with 24 points, including four triples. Koski had another strong night with 16, and they were backed up Emily Aho’s nine, Heimerl’s eight, Joanna Pellizzer’s six and Erickson’s five.
Koski led with eight rebounds, and Aho and Heimerl both had six; West Iron enjoyed a 59-35 edge on the boards. Aho “hit some big shots and did a big job on the boards.” Koski was 8 for 8 at the free throw line.
For L’Anse, Swanson led with 19 points, and Larson scored 10.
West Iron finished with six threes and was 17 of 23 in free throws. They shot 37.5% (24 of 64) while L’Anse was 27% (19 of 59).
“When we move the ball and everybody’s touches the ball,” Dallavalle said, “we’re a much better team, and we shoot higher percentage shots.
“You could see that these last three games—these girls are willing to share the ball, they’re unselfish out there. When they move the ball like that, it makes them pretty tough to beat.”
When they strayed from that approach at Forest Park three nights later, the Wykons struggled. “We’ve got to remember when we get to the tournament, to play the same way.”
• West Iron hosted Hancock Feb. 13 and will visit Calumet on Feb. 16. Next Monday, Feb. 20, is the rematch at L’Anse.
A stellar collection of Wykon seniors play their final home game next Thursday, Feb. 23, against Florence. The district tournament starts Feb. 27 at Norway.
Hornets 7 13 12 15 -- 47
Wykons 20 16 21 14 -- 71