Giving it all they have
Shorthanded Braves fall to 2nd-ranked Patriots
GLADSTONE — They hung with them for as long as they could, but in the end the shorthanded Gladstone Braves just didn’t have enough in a 49-29 home loss to second-ranked Westwood Tuesday evening.
The Braves lost 6-foot-3 center and Grand Valley State commit Megan Crow just under three minutes into this Mid-Peninsula Conference contest with a left ankle sprain, then fell behind 12-2 two minutes later.
Already without guards Marnnea LaFave (illness) and Ahna Larson (wisdom teeth), the Braves (3-5, 2-3 M-PC) fought back to make a game out of it behind tough defense and the offense of senior point guard Maddie Ahlgren.
After scoring the final four points of the opening quarter, Ahlgren pulled the Braves within 20-16 with a stepback 3-pointer with 16 seconds left in the first half. Westwood’s Madelyn Koski then scored on a putback off her own miss to put the Patriots up 22-16 at halftime.
“Obviously, losing Megan Crow — an elite player and a top player in the U.P. — is going to be a lot to lose no matter what,” Braves’ coach Andy Cretens said. “Our offense revolves around her, obviously, but it was pretty amazing what our girls did without her. They could have easily rolled over for them, but our girls are gritty and they’re tough and we made it tough for those girls, we just had a hard time scoring.
“We kind of talked about that. Our girls aren’t used to playing without Megan and all of our stuff runs off of her, so it took a little bit for us to adjust, but that’s maybe the best team in the U.P. and we gave them a run for a while. I know the score doesn’t show it, but we definitely gave them a run missing three of our top six or seven girls. I thought we played really good for what we had.”
The Patriots (8-1, 4-0) didn’t start to separate until late in third quarter. After Ahlgren pulled the Braves within 32-25 with a driving layup with 3:11 left in the period, Westwood made an adjustment to trap Gladstone’s guards in its half-court defense and force them into some turnovers. It worked, and the Patriots went on an 11-2 run to take a 43-27 lead with 3:48 left to put the game away.
“We just needed some momentum,” Patriots’ coach Kurt Corcoran said. “The gym was dead tonight and everybody could hear every word I was saying, which I don’t like. It affected us … there was just no energy. We made a few adjustments there that Gladstone couldn’t really adjust to without their best player on the floor, and we were able to gain some momentum in the fourth quarter.”
Despite earning its eighth win, Corcoran was frustrated his team couldn’t pull away and put the game out of reach early when Crow went out.
“I don’t want to take anything away from Gladstone, but my biggest takeaway here is this was all about us and not so much Gladstone,” Corcoran said. “When Megan Crow goes out of the game, we should be able to run away with this game. That’s no disrespect to Gladstone, that’s just who we are. We should have been able to, and up 12-2 I thought we were going to do that, but instead I think we got selfish, we were undisciplined, we were trying to chase some individual points, and that just led to an ugly game. We’re better than we played tonight.”
On the flip side, Cretens was pleased with his defense, which held the Patriots to just 16-for-50 from the field.
“Our defense was great once again, holding them to 49 points,” he said. “We were happy with that. We talked about if we hold them to 12 a quarter, we win the game… Obviously, when Megan went down, we didn’t put up near as many points as we were hoping to do. If we hold one of the highest scoring teams in the U.P. and a team that can fill it up and score it as well as they do to just 49 points, most of the time we think we’re going to be in the game. But (with) losing Megan that early in the game, we just struggled to score.”
Koski led the Patriots with 19 points, five rebounds and two steals. Backcourt mate Tessa Leece added 12 points, five rebounds, four assists and four steals, while Natalie Prophet chipped in nine points and four rebounds.
Ahlgren led the Braves with 13 points.
Crow’s injury is currently being considered day-to-day. LaFave and Larson are both expected to return to practice today.
“We’re hoping it’s just either a sprain or it kind of irritated those ligaments in her ankle there,” Cretens said. “She usually recovers pretty fast, so it’s just going to be a day-to-day thing on that.”
The Patriots, who won the jayvee game 35-34, visit Houghton Friday. The Braves host Manistique Friday.
Westwood 12 10 14 13 — 49
Gladstone 5 11 9 4 — 29
Westwood — T. Leece 12, M. Koski 19, Patron 5, Prophet 9, Miller 4. F: 16; Fouled out: None. FT: 14-18; 3-point field goals: M. Koski 3.
Gladstone — Torie Zeise 2, Balenger 4, Ahlgren 13, Taelor Zeise 4, Trudeau 4, Crow 2. F: 11; Fouled out: None. FT: 9-13; 3-point field goal: Ahlgren.