West Iron’s Jaclyn Waara makes her move to the basket as Iron Mountain’s Katelynn Johnson tries to block her path during the District 95 title game March 2.
NORWAY—When West Iron County’s girls needed a little help during their Class C District 95 tournament here last week, all they had to do was dial “3.”
Ten three-point buckets in the title game with Iron Mountain March 2 helped the Wykons win 61-50 and take home their second straight district trophy. They also hit 10 threes in the tourney opener against Norway, a 62-42 win on Feb. 27.
West Iron is now 19-3 for the season and will face unbeaten St. Ignace in a regional semifinal game at Marquette March 6. Ishpeming and Houghton play in the other regional semi.
The Wykons’ title game with Iron Mountain was pushed back two days by the big mid-week snowstorm. The storm did West Iron a big favor: Star senior Jaclyn Waara came down with the flu at midweek.
“I had the chills and everything,” she said. With school called off, “I got to rest all day yesterday and half a day today and tried to save my energy for tonight.”
West Iron had the three-ball working early, with Shannon Koski, Kylee Erickson and Waara all dialing long distance for an early 11-3 lead.
Katelynn Johnson came back with two triples for the Mountaineers, as they rallied 15-2 and took a 20-17 lead early in the second quarter.
The Wykons battled back with a 7-0 run, five by Joanna Pellizzer, and went back in front. The offense cooled after that, but they kept a slender lead for the rest of the half, leading 28-26 after two.
Desoite the lead, the Wykons felt frustrated: The refs had called 12 fouls on them to just four on IM, though both teams were battling just as hard. Three Wykons (Koski and centers Alexis Heimerl and Megan Miatech) had three fouls at halftime.
Coach Mike Dallavalle credited Emilie Christensen and Emily Aho for coming off the bench late in the half. “Even though our offense was sputtering, we played great defense to stay in the game. Without that, it could have been a different outcome.”
Dallavalle spent part of halftime calming his girls down. “Coach said we can’t let the refs bother us,” Koski said after the game. “We just have to play straight-up D, and whatever they call, they call.”
“These girls are battle-tested,” Dallavalle said after the game, “and we’ve got two-, three- and four-year starters out there. They’re experienced, and they know how to win games.”
More relaxed after the talk, the Wykons went to work, and the threes started falling again--Koski and Waara had two each, and Erickson added another during a 17-6 rally that put WIC ahead 45-32.
IM rallied to within four early in the fourth quarter but never made it a one-possession game--Waara and Erickson came back with threes to put WIC up by 10, and the Mountaineers never got closer than five after that..
Waara said her team usually comes out strong in the third quarter. “No matter how the other team has played,” she said, “no matter what the refs are doing, you always have to focus on how you can play and what you can do to win. That’s what we did.”
Like those threes--the Wykons made 10 of 20 shots outside the arc. Waara led with four, Erickson had three, Koski had two and Pellizzer one. For IM, Johnson had three triples—her team’s total.
When the Wykons are relaxed, Dallavalle said, “They can knock them down. They seemed to stay pretty relaxed in their shooting most of the game.”
Waara led WIC’s scoring with 22, Erickson had 13, Koski had 10, plus eight by Pellizzer and six by Heimerl. For IM, Rikki Gingras led with 18, and Johnson had 14.
Pellizzer had a big night on defense, pulling down 11 rebounds, and Waara had three steals. WIC outshot the Mountaineers 35% to 30%.
In the tourney opener against Norway, Erickson hit an early three, but the Knights got an early 8-5 lead. The Wykons got going on three Koski free throws, two Erickson baskets and a three and a two by Waara for a 17-9 lead.
Down by nine early in the second quarter, Norway rallied back and cut WIC’s lead to two, 24-22. West Iron came back: baskets by Koski from the corner, Waara for three, Koski from Erickson. Then, Miatech stole the ball and, with three seconds till halftime, scored on an inbounds pass from Koski. (“That was big,” Dallavalle said.) WIC’s two-point lead was up to 12, 34-22, at halftime.
Early in the third, Koski and Waara both made a two and a three, for a 44-26 lead. Early in the fourth quarter, WIC’s artillery got dialed in, and the Wykons hit five threes in 2 1/2 minutes (three by Waara, two by Aho) for a 60-30 lead.
WIC’s defense held Norway without a basket for over 10 minutes of the second half. The Knights made the final score more respectable with a late 12-2 spurt.
Waara led West Iron with 23 points, and Koski backed her with 18. Erickson had eight, and Aho had six. For Norway, Megan Kangas scored 16—half of them in that late burst—and Bailey Grayvold scored 12.
“We did a great job defensively,” Dallavalle said later. “Kylee did a great job on Kangas, and everybody did a good job of helping any time Kangas got by her. That was our focus.
“When we play good defense, that translates into some high-power offense in the second half.”
• The regional tournament at Marquette starts Tuesday, March 6. The Wykons face St. Ignace (22-0) in the first semifinal game, tipping off at 6 p.m. Eastern Time (5 Central). In the nightcap, Ishpeming (7-15) takes on Houghton (21-1) at 8 Eastern (7 Central). The regional title game is March 8 at 7 Eastern.
The Wykon girls are eager for the challenge. “Words can’t describe how excited I am,” Pellizzer said. “We play St. Ignace, so it’s a whole new ballgame.”
“The girls are excited to get a look at somebody other than Houghton,” the coach noted. “That might be good for us—it might give us an edge.”
Wykons 19 15 11 17 -- 62
Knights 13 9 5 15 -- 42
M’taineers 15 11 13 11 -- 50
Wykons 17 11 17 16 -- 61