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Lady Braves drop season opener

Gladstone junior Addy Blowers (1) puts up a layup during the Braves 2023-24 season opener against Ishpeming on Dec. 7, 2023 at Gladstone Area High School.

GLADSTONE — Season openers can be hit or miss for any team regardless of sport.

For Gladstone girls basketball, Thursday’s season opener against Ishpeming provided a little bit of both in a 41-26 loss at Gladstone Area High School.

“There’s some little things that we could have done better that would have kept us in the game, and would have made it a really good game,” Gladstone coach Andy Cretens said. “I felt like we were ready. Kind of frustrating, but it’s understandable because it’s the first game.”

After falling behind 22-5 in the second quarter, a free throw from sophomore Lillie Johnson and a pair of free throws from junior Tia Schone helped get the offense back on track. After a defensive stop, Johnson held the ball on the right wing of the offensive end.

Face-to-face with a defender, Johnson dribbled the ball, crossed over to leave her defender off balance, stepped back and drained a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 22-11. The Hematites responded with a 5-0 solo run from senior Jenna Maki to carry a 27-11 lead at the half.

Maki drained a free throw to open the third quarter. The Braves refused to allow the game to get out of hand.

Johnson added three-straight points. Hematites sophomore Mya Hemmer connected inside the paint. Schone banked a 3-pointer off the glass and drove to the hole for a layup to go on a 5-0 run of her own. Hemmer connected in the paint once again and senior Addison Morgan added a free throw for a 33-19 lead at the end of the third.

Braves junior Mayce Hanson scored the fourth quarter’s first points to pull within 12. Then the Hematities began to pull away with a 7-0 run featuring a Hemmer layup and a 3-pointer from sophomore Janessa Eagle to go up 40-21.

“(In) the last two minutes we showed what we could do with our grit,” Reichel said. ” We stopped some things. They didn’t get a shot off the last couple possessions. They were trying to, and that was just because they didn’t get an opportunity to get a look. So I was really happy with that part of the game.”

Maki led all players with 10 points. Sophomore Janessa Eagle totaled nine points. Hemmer finished with seven points. Swanson totaled six points. Junior Peyton Kakkuri and senior Payton Manninen added three points each. Senior Kadie Kaokola scored two points and senior Addison Morton added one point.

The Hematites host Ishpeming Westwood on Dec. 11th.

” It was sloppy. But the first games of the season are always sloppy,” Ishpeming coach Ryan Reichel said. ” I was happy with the defensive intensity and just the way we played got up and down the floor. We got to clean up some things, but overall I’m pretty happy with how hard we played defensively.”

In the end, the Braves committed 31 turnovers, scored 26 points and zero partridges in a pear tree 18 days away from Christmas.

But for a season opener, the panic level with the Braves is at a zero. Take away the 7-0 fourth-quarter run and the Hematities 15-2 burst out of the gate and Thursday’s game has a different story.

“We know this is one of the better teams we’ll play all year, potentially one of the better teams in the UP,” Cretens said. “We defended pretty well. I thought we did pretty well rebounding wise as well. We just got to do a better job offensively taking care of the ball and taking better shots.”

Johnson led the Braves with nine points. Schone finished with eight points. Junior Alexa Wetthuhn totaled four points. Senior Addie Trombley scored three points and junior Mayce Hanson finished with two points.

The Braves return to action on Dec. 12th to host Kingsford.

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