RAPID RIVER - Some of Mid Peninsula's athletes weren't even born the last time the Wolverines beat Rapid River. It's been 17 long years since Mid Pen has claimed victory in the series. That all ended in spades Tuesday evening.
Mid Peninsula, now with a very experienced team with a considerable size advantage, rolled 56-18 in the season opener for both teams.
It was also the first time in school history that the Wolverines' girls won a game via the mercy rule.
Keith Shelton | Daily Press
Rapid River’s Josie Miller saves the ball from going out of bounds as she is pressured by Mid Peninsula’s Hunter Branstrom during ther first half Tuesday at Rapid River.
Keith Shelton | Daily Press
Krysta VanDamme of Mid Peninsula looks for a lane after grabbing a rebound in the second half as Rapid River’s Josie Miller (50) and Veronica Schram (33) defend Tuesday night at Rapid River.
"I mentioned it (the losing streak) to the girls before the game," said Wolverines head coach Ryan Lyle. "A couple of them said 'hey, that's the year I was born' or 'I wasn't even born then.' For these girls, they've known nothing else but losing to Rapid. It was nice for them. It was nice for the community as a whole."
Both teams were timid at first. The Rockets defense boxed out the Wolverines big inside players and created a few turnovers as well. Unfortunately Rapid River couldn't transition them into points.
The Wolverines led 7-2 after the first quarter before waking up in a hurry at the start of the second.
Mid Peninsula 7 19 19 11 - 56
Rapid River 2 3 4 9 - 18
Mid Peninsula: Westlund, 2, Shope 5, Nummilien 6, Lancour 5, Kayser 8, Branstrom 9, VanDamme 21; FT: 12-17; F: 9; Fouled out: none; 3-point field goals: none.
Rapid River: Stropich 2, H. Kanyuh 4, Stenlund 3, Kerstner 2, Schram 2, Miller 5; FT: 5-11; F: 14; Fouled out: none; 3-point field goals: none.
Mid Pen's Krysta VanDamme and Hunter Branstrom began using their size advantage to power inside and the Wolverines' guards were happy to feed them the ball.
VanDamme scored 21 points, her most since her sophomore year against North Dickinson. The senior forward was nearly at a loss for words at the streak-ending victory.
"It's just amazing, it's been so long," she said. "It feels great to be on the other side of the mercy rule for a change. We've just been working really hard in practice and came out with no regrets. We left it all on the floor."
Lyle was happy with VanDamme's performance but said she has room for improvement.
"Krysta played hard tonight. She's been working hard and it showed," he said. "There was a couple times in the first half where she passed off where she should have been taking shots, but that's her unselfish nature."
Branstrom scored nine points for the Wolverines.
"Our focus was on the big girls from Mid Pen," said Rockets head coach Michelle Carne. "We knew they were coming in and were big and strong down there. We wanted to make them shoot. I thought we did a good job of that in the first half, but in the second half, it kind of got away from us."
Mid Pen led 26-5 at the half and had a running clock by the end of the third quarter.
For the Rockets' first-year coach, it was a hard way to start the season.
"Obviously the scoreboard is going to say we played bad and didn't win the game, but we did some OK things tonight," Carne said. "Toward the end of the second half, we were doing what we were supposed to. We were getting the ball to our shooters in the middle.
"At the beginning of the game, we were just all mumble jumble and a little jittery. I think I was a little jittery for all of us."
The Rockets, still trying to find an identity with a brand new starting five, began to come alive offensively toward the end of the third quarter with freshman Hannah Kanyuh taking on an important role.
The young talent started the game at guard.
"Hannah is a great player," said Carne. "At halftime, I told the girls, somebody has to step up. Somebody has to want the ball every single day in practice and in games. Hannah said she was willing to do it, and for a freshman against a super experienced team, Hannah did a great job tonight. I'm looking forward to the rest of the season with her."
On Friday, Rapid River travels to North Central while Mid Peninsula hosts Carney-Nadeau.