GARDEN CORNERS - On paper it appeared to be an even matchup when Big Bay de Noc hosted Munising in a district semifinal Wednesday night. The Mustangs came out red-hot and assured it would be anything but.
Munising began the game on a 14-2 run en route to a 50-33 victory.
The game paled in comparison to previous meetings between the two teams earlier this season and last, and senior Jenna Hach was a big reason why.
Paul Gerard photo
Big Bay de Noc’s Sam Sundling puts up a shot from the perimiter as Munising’s Karlee Decet contests, during the first half Monday, during their district semifinal game at Garden?Corners.
The Mustangs' guard had a career night, scoring 17 points, including four triples, but most impressive was her nothing-but-net first quarter.
Hach scored 11 consecutive points, hitting back-to-back shots from downtown, followed by a jumper from just inside the arc, and finally another triple, the crowd cheering louder after each one. It was the last thing Hach, who normally averages around seven points a night, expected.
"I try to shoot more, especially having (senior) Emily DesJardins out from the beginning of the season. I didn't think they were going in tonight, but then they did, so I'm happy," she said. "It was important for us to keep the gas pedal on and not let up at all."
Munising 17 8 13 12 - 50
Big Bay 6 4 10 13 - 33
MUNISING - Hach 17, McLaren 8, Sowa 8, Marsh 2, Cromell 6, Decet 2, Immel 7; FT: 8-11; F: 11; Fouled out: none; 3-point field goals: Hach 4.
BIG BAY DE NOC - Leckson 8, Cayemberg 6, Sundling 9, Thompson 10; FT: 5-12; F: 14; Fouled out: Thompson, Bradshaw; 3-point field goals: Leckson, Sundling.
The Mustangs came out of the first quarter with a 17-6 lead and carried a 25-10 advantage at the half, letting defense dictate the game.
"We had excellent shooting," said Mustangs coach Matt Mattson. "Jenna Hach had a good first quarter and a great game. We knew (Big Bay de Noc) would play zone defense to start with, and between Hach, (Sheena) Sowa and (Megan) McLaren, they can shoot the three pretty well, so I was glad to see us knock a couple down."
Mattson was particularly proud of the defensive effort his team, all hovering below the 5-foot-7 mark, displayed against the Black Bears, who carried a significant height advantage.
"We're all between 5-4 and 5-7 so we just switch on picks and play good half-court man-to-man defense," he said. "We don't have the quickness to play a full-court type of game, so we try to hang our hat on playing a good half-court game."
Black Bears coach Jacki Knoph was at a loss to explain her team's start to the game.
"We were really slow to start off tonight," she said. "We weren't getting any rebounds, we just kind of seemed to not be in the game. I don't know if the nerves got to us, or what was wrong."
Big Bay did show signs of life to open the second half as Chelsea Thompson, Samantha Sundling and Rachel Leckson, in her final varsity game, got involved. The defense also slowed the Mustang's scoring pace somewhat, but the hole that was dug in the first quarter was too deep to come back from.
"It was nice to get that lead. We were up 10, 12 points right off the bat," said Mattson. "We had two single-digit wins against them, so to beat them by 17 here, we're just playing better in the second half of the season."
Sowa had eight points with nine rebounds for the Mustangs and Katie Immel dished out five assists to go with her seven points.
The Black Bears (4-16) were led by Thompson's 10-point effort. Sundling added nine points and Leckson scored eight points with six rebounds.
"We're going to be losing three girls in Rachel, Jordyn Bradshaw and Holly Severin and it's going to hurt when they're gone, but we'll see what we can bring up from the JV," said Knoph.
Munising (12-10) now advances to the district title game Friday night back here at Big Bay de Noc against the No. 2-ranked Superior Central Cougars, who dispatched Rapid River 67-25 earlier in the evening.
"Superior Central is a great team," said Hach. "They're undefeated for a reason and ranked in the state. Obviously they're good. We just have to give it our all and play for the seniors."
Hach's coach agreed with his senior guard's assessment.
"They're going to press and get after us and run," said Mattson. "Somehow we have to contain Freberg and Tyner, all of them. They're good at every position, we obviously we have our work cut out for us, but it's tournament time. You never know what can happen."