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No. 2 Broncos triumph over Mustangs, claim 2023-24 conference championship

Adam Hinch Daily Press Bark River-Harris senior Lauren Zawada (14) drives to the basket against Munising on Feb. 23, 2024 at Bark River-Harris High School.

HARRIS — The Bark River-Harris girls were rewarded for a season of hard work here Friday night, earning the Skyline Central Conference Large Division basketball title in a 52-31 triumph over the Munising Mustangs.

BR-H, which improved to 20-1 overall and finished 8-0 in the SCC, travels to top-ranked Ishpeming Tuesday. Munising (16-4 overall, 7-1 league) visits Newberry Tuesday.

“This feels pretty good,” BR-H senior guard Lauren Zawada said. “It’s great to win it at home. We definitely had to work for this one. They have all the fundamentals. Munising has pretty good height and runs the ball to the post quite well. They’re a pretty good team.”

The Broncos’ latest victory took place 24 hours after their 60-20 conquest of Forest Park at Crystal Falls.

“We had back-to-back games and the girls had good energy both nights,” BR-H coach Matt Richer said. “They were really playing good. We were making a lot of good plays, then we’d miss an easy shot or turn the ball over. They kept working on defense. We weren’t letting them into the rhythm they needed. Nina (Bower) kind of held us together in the third quarter. We tell the girls they don’t have to score to make a difference. You can always play defense.”

Munising was within 11-10 following a layup by senior forward Emmy Crisp early in the second quarter.

The Broncos scored the next nine points, surging to a 20-11 lead on a lay-in by junior guard Marissa Ives, set up on a pass from senior guard Mckenzie Hoffmeyer with two minutes left in the second.

BR-H led 23-12 at halftime before extending its lead to 33-16 midway through the third.

The Mustangs responded with six unanswered points, trimming their deficit to 33-22 on a lay-in by Crisp at 2:05.

“We got into little bit of foul trouble and Crisp got away from us a few times,” Richer said. “She works real hard. It will be a fun game at Ishpeming. They’re a very good team. We just have to stick to our game plan and continue to do the things we’ve done.”

BR-H gained a 35-22 cushion on a layup by senior point guard Nina Bower on a pass from junior guard Hope Varoni with 56 seconds remaining in the third.

The Broncos continued to build on their lead in the fourth frame which reached 23 points (52-29) on a three-point play by Zawada with 66 seconds remaining.

Bower, however, left the contest with an ankle injury halfway through the fourth.

“Nina wanted this real bad.” Zawada said. “I wish she could have been here to share this moment. Emmy is pretty good at about 15 feet, which is hard to defend.”

Bower hit a layup off the opening tip and a six-foot jump shot by senior guard Mckenzie Hoffmeyer gave the Broncos a 9-2 lead midway through the opening frame.

Munising climbed within 9-8 before a steal and 10-foot running jumper by Hoffmeyer gave BR-H a 3-point lead with three seconds left in the first.

Zawada scored 17 points to go with seven rebounds, seven assists and six steals. Hoffmeyer added 13 points and five steals and Bower finished with 12 points and five assists.

Crisp scored 19 points for the Mustangs, who committed 24 turnovers. The Broncos had 10 miscues.

“We couldn’t settle down in our half-court game,” Munising coach Matt Mattson said. “Trying to defend them is tough when they score three in double digits. I thought we could get it (deficit) in single digits going into the fourth, but Hoffmeyer hit a couple 3s and we couldn’t quite get that done. You can’t turn the ball over 24 times against a good team. Emmy is averaging 21 points, She’s our go-to girl. She’s having a great senior season. This was a good game for our girls to get ready for tournaments.”

Munising 8 4 8 9 — 31

Bark River-Harris 11 12 12 17 — 52

Munising — Corcoran 9, Salo 1, Crisp 19, Smith 1, Prunick 1. FT: 7-12; F: 8; Fouled out: None.

Bark River-Harris — Ives 6, Bower 12, Varoni 4, Zawada 17, Hoffmeyer 13. F: 18; Fouled out: None; 3-point field goals: Hoffmeyer 3, Bower, Zawada.

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