IRON RIVER—St. Ignace’s girls team is still unbeaten after facing West Iron County in its regional semifinal game at Marquette March 6, but only after the Saints got a huge scare from a Wykon team that dominated the second half but ran out of time.
The 71-64 loss ends another great Wykons season. West Iron has a lot to be proud of, including a 19-4 season record and their second consecutive District 95 title. It was the final game for seniors Jaclyn Waara, Shannon Koski, Joanna Pellizzer, Emily Aho and Alexis Heimerl.
St. Ignace moved on to defeat Houghton in overtime, 70-69, in the regional title game. The Saints will face McBain in a state Class C quarterfinal game March 13.
Early in the third quarter, the Wykon girls trailed the Saints by 22 points. But with 3½ minutes left, they were just a three-pointer behind. “These girls played extremely hard in the second half,” said Coach Mike Dallavalle.
How did they do it? “Just a good team effort of finding open people and driving to the basket. We played much better defense in the second half—we just couldn’t get that last bucket or two to tie it up.
“I’m very proud how these girls stuck together and fought back.”
West Iron hit a couple shots in the opening minutes, but the Saints soon took charge. “St. Ignace plays very, very good defense,” said Dallavalle, “and kind of took us out of rhythm.” West Iron did not go to the basket aggressively in the first. half, and that hurt their chances.
“The refs called a tight game,” Dallavalle noted, “and we did not take advantage of that until the second half.”
St. Ignace did. It reminded onlookers of the Wykons’ district title game against Iron Mountain, when Koski and centers Heimerl and Megan Miatech all picked up three fouls in the first half and had to leave the floor.
Losing Koski for the entire second quarter was a big blow, Dallavalle said. The senior inbounds the ball for West Iron and calls many of the plays on offense. “She gets people organized out there. When she’s on the bench, we lose some of that leadership.”
The substitutes did their best, but the Saints have a tall, talented lineup, and St. Ignace made the most of the mismatches. Saints senior Lauren Goldthorpe scored 11 points in the first half, as St. Ignace outscored the Wykons 22-9 in the second quarter to build up a 42-24 halftime lead.
The Saints are also young (three sophomore starters) and tall (6-0 and 5-11 post players). “Very aggressive team. It took us a while to get used to the way they were playing. They’ve got a whole team that can score.
“Their senior [Goldthorpe] is 5-8, and she jumps just like Joanna [Pellizzer]. It’s tough to get anything inside unless you’re going to get fouled or blocked.”
The game started turning at halftime when Dallavalle instructed his team to play a more attacking style of offense, driving to the net to get close-in shots and to draw fouls.
For the rest of the night, West Iron did just that and went to the foul stripe often. Waara made all 11 of her free throw attempts in the second half, and Pellizzer hit 4 of 6.
“Jaclyn was doing a great job of penetrating and drawing contact,” said Dallavalle. She scored eight points in the third quarter and 10 in the fourth.
From the outside, Kylee Erickson hit three threes in the second half. In the fourth quarter, a trio of threes—two by Erickson, one by Waara—sliced the Saints’ lead down to three, 62-59, with 3:50 left. But baskets by Emily Hinsman and Sam Gugin plus free throws (The Saints were 9 of 14 at the line in the fourth quarter.) helped rebuild their lead.
Pellizzer also had a big second half at both ends of the floor. “She was driving to the basket and did a great job on Goldthorpe.”
Waara led both teams with 27 points, Erickson scored 13, Pellizzer added eight, and Heimerl scored six. The Saints had four girls in double figures: Gugin with 18, Goldthorpe with 16, Kelley Wright with 14 and Hinsman with 12.
After the game ended, Dallavalle said, the Wykon girls told him it didn’t feel like their season was over.
“That was a testament to the fact that we were satisfied with the way we played. Because they played so well, they had no reason to hang their heads.”
Wykons 15 9 20 20 -- 64
Saints 20 22 12 17 -- 71