IRON MOUNTAIN—You’ve seen that pose before. The one with the West Iron girls basketball team triumphantly holding the District 95 trophy.
They did the pose for the third straight year Feb. 27. After getting past Stephenson 33-31 in the semifinals Feb. 25, they defeated Iron Mountain 45-30 in the title game. This week, they go to Marquette for the Class C regionals.
This time, the names are different. The cast has changed a lot over two years—WIC lost four starters after last season—but the Wykons (now 12-10 for the year) won again because they focused on defense and stayed patient on offense. They never trailed.
“It was a whole new team,” said Kylee Erickson, who started on all three teams. “Everybody has improved so tremendously, with Alexis Golfis stepping up and Megan Miatech and Emilie Christensen down low.
“Everybody worked so hard on defense. That’s how we won tonight and Monday: our defense.”
Vs. Iron Mtn. Miatech got the Wykons started in the title game with a rebound basket in the opening seconds. Twos by Cassi Pellizzer and Golfis and a triple from Erickson built a 9-3 lead after the first quarter. Early in the second, Christensen scored and Erickson converted a three-point play to extend the lead to 18-7. It was 23-13 at halftime.
During the third quarter, West Iron put its foot on the gas. Miatech converted her own miss, and Golfis hit another three. Miatech down low and again from a Golfis pass. Now West Iron led 36-17.
When Coach Mike Dallavalle’s post players got in foul trouble, Sydnie Mazurek and Brittanie Barry came in, and IM couldn’t close ground.
IM’s Katelynn Johnson, who left with an injury earlier, tried to rally her team with back-to-back hoops, but Miatech converted another pass, and Golfis tripled again. Wykons 41-23 after three.
IM didn’t get closer than 13 in the fourth quarter. “We really stuck together defensively,” Dallavalle said. “We’ve been pretty solid all season, but this is probably a new level of intensity.”
Johnson led IM with 14 points, but Erickson kept her in check. “Our best defender,” said the coach. “We knew we had to shut down Katelynn tonight.” Golfis covered Abby Gerard and held her to seven. “She never got beat down the floor.”
On offense, West Iron stayed patient, made extra passes and waited for open shots.
“It’s just a thrill to watch these kids play together like that,” the coach said. “They worked so hard this season and played so well in this tournament. They deserved it tonight.”
Numbers: WIC team: 20-56 (36%) FG, 4-14 (29%) 3’s, 1-3 FT, 16 turnovers, 36 rebounds. IM team: 7-44 (16%) FG, 2-7 (29%) 3’s, 14-24 (58%) FT, 21 turnovers, 43 rebounds.
WIC stats: Megan Miatech, 12 points, 4 rebs, 3 stls; Alexis Golfis, 11 pts, 5 rebs, 4 assists; Kylee Erickson, 10 pts, 4 stls; Emilie Christensen, 6 pts, 9 rebs; Mallory Tomasoski, 3 asts. IM stats: Katelynn Johnson, 14 pts, 6 rebs; Abby Gerhard, 7 pts, 8 rebs, 4 stls; Alena Herman, 8 rebs.
Wykons 9 14 18 4 -- 45
M’tneers 3 10 10 7 -- 30
Vs. Stephenson: The semifinal game against Stephenson was bizarre. Shots didn’t fall for either team in the first quarter. “It looked like a layup drill without any layups,” Dallavalle quipped.
It remained 0-0 until Sierra Rasmussen made a free throw with 44 seconds left in the quarter. She got the game’s first basket with 7 seconds left. After one: Wykons 3, Stephenson 0.
The Eagles got rid of their goose egg early in the second quarter and cut the lead to 5-4, but West Iron went on a 8-0 run, as Rasmussen added five more points. The Wykons led 15-9 at halftime.
Christensen scored five points before a 6-0 Eagles spurt tied it 22-22 late in the third quarter.
Erickson kept the Wykons in front, though, with 10 straight WIC points, including four free throws and a three-pointerearly in the fourth, making the score 29-22.
Down 32-23 with 2 ½ left, Stephenson rallied 9-1 and got within two, 33-31, with a minute left. But several shots to tie or go ahead only hit the rim. For that matter, WIC missed five straight free throws that would have iced it. It was that kind of game.
Mazurek came on after Pellizzer got in foul trouble, while Rasmussen made some important baskets.
Unlike the teams’ encounter four nights earlier, the Wykons’ defense was intense. “If somebody got beat on a drive,” said Dallavalle, “we slid over and stopped the dribble. Then we helped the helper down low. That’s something we didn’t do that the other night.”
The girls were on their toes, dove for loose balls and battled for rebounds, and they were much stronger 1-on-1.
Numbers: WIC team: 8-54 (15%) FG, 1-9 (11%) 3’s, 16-31 (52%) FT; 10 turnovers; 49 rebounds. Stephenson team: 11-41 (27%) FG, 2-14 (14%) 3’s, 7-16 (44%) FT; 43 rebounds; 20 turnovers.
WIC stats: Kylee Erickson, 14 pts, 4 rebs; Sierra Rasmussen, 8 pts; Emilie Christensen, 6 pts, 12 rebs, 4 stls; Megan Miatech, 5 rebs, 2 stls; Alexis Golfis, 4 asts. Stephenson stats: Kelsey Johnson, 13 pts, Lexi Johnson, 11 pts, 8 rebs; Tiffany Wangerin, 6 pts, 11 rebs; Chelsea Tourcotte, 6 rebs.
Eagles 0 9 13 9 -- 31
Wykons 3 12 11 7 -- 33
Coming up: This week, the Wykons head to Marquette High School for the Class C regional tournament. They face West Pac Conference nemesis Houghton in the second semifinal game, which starts at 8 p.m. Eastern Time (7 Central) on March 5.
The winner moves on to the regional finals March 7 against either Manistique or Ishpeming at 7 Eastern.