POWERS - Five-foot-three, Five-foot three, Five-foot-two; the Rapid River girls are more like model rockets, sized to scale, in comparison to their North Central counterparts. But Ashleigh Monticello and Kelly Bintner led the size disadvantaged Rockets to an 84-76 overtime triumph Thursday night in dual Skyline/Central U.P. conference basketball action.
"They were outsized, but Rapid River fought so hard and (Rapid River coach Eric Lundin) gets that out of them," said North Central coach Jon Lorenzoni.
The Rockets (12-5, 7-3 Skyline, 8-3 CUP), as so many teams that play North Central do, fell into the Jets foul trap in the second half as they were worn down by physical play. With four minutes left to go in the fourth quarter, North Central (9-9, 6-4 Skyline, 5-5 CUP) led 68-64 after a 10-2 run.
Rapid River and North Central players fight for a second quarter rebound in front of the Rockets basket Thursday night. Pictured is Neena Brockway, left, Taylor Granquist, rear, Ashleigh Monticello, back right, and Morgan Wells (14). (Daily Press photo by Keith Shelton)
The Rockets received a second-wind in the final 1:30 of regulation, tying the game at 70-70 with 45 seconds to go. The Jets' defense then buckled down and forced the Rockets into undesirable shots that all missed their mark, sending the game to overtime.
At that point, perhaps due to the litany of fouls and free throws, and stopages in play when Bintner and Dana Rochon of North Central went down hard on the floor in the second half, it felt like two games had been played.
Rochon and Bintner each returned after a few minutes on the bench.
"I didn't think Kelly was coming back into the game, but I saw her warming up and she ended up scoring 10 points in the fourth quarter and overtime on a hobbled knee," said Lundin.
Bintner, giving up at least four inches to anyone on the Jets, hit four triples and totaled a career high 26 points. Amazingly, five career highs were established in the high-scoring affair. Ashleigh Monticello scored 25 points and Neena Brockway had 12 points with 12 rebounds, also her first career double-double.
For North Central, Taylor Granquist went 15-18 from the free-throw line, scoring 33 points with 12 rebounds. That shattered her previous high-game by nine points in her final regular season home game. She also had an excellent night on defense. Assigned to Heather Sanderson man-to-man, she limited the Rockets forward to 12 points. Morgan Wells totaled a career-high 20 points.
The Rockets started out forcing the Jets out of their rhythm and into a fast paced game, but that changed after halftime as North Central inevitably drew their opponent into a slugfest.
There were a total of 43 fouls. Even Lorenzoni uncharacteristically received a technical foul after the first quarter buzzer for arguing a non-call. Rapid River lost the war of attrition with Ashley Hough, Taylor Bintner and Kaylee Judson all sitting on the bench by the end of the game, but still the Rockets found a way.
In overtime, Rapid River got back to their style of play and dominated the final minutes as they drew fouls, partly by hard work and partly out of North Central's neccessity. Through the fourth quarter and overtime, the Rockets were 17-20 from the free throw line, helping secure the victory.
"The free throws in the fourth quarter and overtime were key. The last time we played North Central, we took 37 free throws, so last night in practice we practiced free throws for a half-hour," said Lundin.
Lorenzoni thought his team played good enough to win.
"I go back to what I've been telling this team from the beginning. If we play hard for 32 minutes, it's a win for us. I thought we did that tonight," he said.
Lundin naturally had a different perspective.
"It was just one of the best games I've ever been affiliated with. Both teams played extremely hard and both showed a lot of heart in a physical contest," he said.
On Monday, Rapid River plays at North Dickinson while North Central travels to Bark River-Harris.
Rapid River 15 21 20 14 14 - 84
North Central 14 23 14 19 6 - 76
Rapid River - Hough 2, T. Bintner 5, Judson 2, Monticello 25, Sanderson 12, K. Bintner 26, Brockway 12; FTL 24-31; F: 21; Fouled out: Hough, T. Bintner, Judson; 3-point field goals: T. Bintner, Monticello 3, K. Bintner 4.
North Central - Dana Rochon 4, Wells 20, Campbell 4, LaBonte 3, Darcy Rochon 12, Granquist 33; FT: 28-40; F: 22; Fouled out: LaBonte; Technical Fouls: Lorenzoni; 3-point field goals: Dana Rochon, Wells.