IRONWOOD — In the season-opener for both teams, a third-quarter surge lifted Ironwood to a 37-31 victory over Wakefield-Marenisco in an Indianhead Conference battle at the John Krznarich Gym on Tuesday night.
With both teams seeming to have the first game jitters, the Cardinals opened up a 19-16 halftime advantage. The first two quarters (and the whole game) were not a thing of beauty. The basket seemed to have a lid on it as the Red Devils knocked down five of 28 shots (18 percent) and the Cardinals were 6-22 (27 percent).
Only W-M’s sophomore Kassidee Yon reached double-figures by the half with 10-points.
“It looked like first game jitters, but the girls said they weren’t nervous,” Ironwood coach Noel Aho said. “I was confident in them, but they seemed unsure of themselves.”
First-year Cardinal coach Pete Yon looked at it from a little different viewpoint.
“We had freshman jitters even though we have five sophomores, a senior and two freshmen,” Yon said. “We’re usually a pretty aggressive team, but we weren’t aggressive on offense tonight. And when there were loose balls, Ironwood seemed to get to them.”
In the third quarter, Ironwood began to assert itself. Payton Aho tossed in a 12-foot jump shot from the left wing, but W-M’s Lauren Grace answered by making the same shot from same spot at the other end of the court to keep the Cardinals ahead 21-18.
After Ironwood broke W-M’s full-court pressure, the ball was passed into Emily DiGiorgio who hit a soft turnaround jumper from the lane. At the 3:04 mark, the left-handed DiGiorgio scored again as the Red Devils took its first lead since early in the first quarter at 22-21.
DiGiorgio sank a free throw and had another basket as she had reeled off seven straight points to give Ironwood a 25-23 lead they would not relinquish.
“We were nervous the first half, but we stepped it up in the second half to get the win,” DiGiorgio said. “Our height really helped. I scored the points when my teammates got me some good passes when I was open.”
DiGiorgio had a big night as she led the Red Devils with 11-points, 16 rebounds and three blocked shots.
After Jessica Gering’s base-line drive from the right corner, Ironwood finished the third quarter with a 27-23 lead. The Red Devils had outscored the Cardinals 11-4 in the quarter and momentum had switched over to the cardinal and white.
There were times in the fourth quarter when neither team could buy a shot. Ironwood’s back-line of Rachel Pallin (6-0), DiGiorgio (5-10) and Gering (5-8) either blocked shots or forced the Cardinal offense to change their shots.
“Jess Gering said ‘if our shots are not falling, the defense will win games,’” Aho said. “I told the girls she was right. We did what we had to do to win. I was happy with our team play. We were unselfish, maybe too much so. But I hope our shooting will get better.”
Yon was realistic in his assessment of the game.
“Defensively, we didn’t do bad but give Ironwood credit, they dominated us inside,” Yon said. “As a team, we’ll learn from this.”
Kassidee Yon led all scorers with 15-points and Pete Yon said Hallee Yon ran the offense well from her point guard spot.
After DiGiorgio’s 11 points, Katie Piispanen notched eight points. Gering garnered seven points and played a good floor game.
W-M won the junior varsity game 41-29.
The Red Devils (1-0, 1-0) will travel to Butternut on Tuesday for another conference game for a 5:45 p.m. varsity game only. The varsity boys teams will play 20 minutes after the conclusion of the girls game.
W-M — Miranda Sibley 6, Hallee Yon 1, Kassidee Yon 15, Lauren Grace 6, Heather Hemming 2, Rachel O’Bradovich 1. FTs:12-25; Fouls; 20 Fouled out; O’Bradovich, Hemming, Grace Hallee Yon. 3-pointers: Kassidde Yon, 1.
Ironwood — Jessica Gering 7, Payton Aho 2, Katie Piispanen 8, Emily DiGiorgio 11, Rachel Pallin 2, Paige Aho 2, Kacie Lundin 5. FTs: 17-26; Fouls:17; Fouled out: DiGiorgio; 3-pointers: none.
W-M 12 19 23 31
Ironwood 9 16 27 37