BESSEMER - What's with all these winning (and losing) streaks the Bessemer Speedgirls have been on this season?
Bessemer started out with three wins, lost five in a row and now have won four straight with a solid 43-35 victory over Ewen-Trout Creek in Porcupine Mountain action on Friday night in the House of Noise.
"I told the girls I like the positive streaks better," Bessemer coach Richard Matrella said. "We've become more consistent."
Matrella said it took time to find the right combination of girls to play. Lots of girls missed time last year due to injuries.
"And now we're not just Sarah Trudgeon," Matrella said. "We're not one-dimensional, but we have other girls to score. And it's not just scoring. Now, we fill out the stat sheet, which is good. Before, we were getting nothing. Now we're getting rebounds, steals, assists and other things from other kids. The kids are contributing and that's how you win games."
Ewen-Trout Creek gave Bessemer a game but couldn't quite get over the victory hump for the 14th time this season. That kind of thing starts to wear on you.
"We've been in several games, but we can't finish," E-TC coach Jacky Besonen said. "We can't get over the hump. And in the last three games or more, we've struggled with our shooting. We shot 58 percent on our free throws. All five have to look to shoot and score and we need someone to step up.
"It's been a rough year with a lot of losses but we keep working hard. We keep our heads up and have a floor game, but we're not scoring."
The game started well for the Panthers. Early on, E-TC's Emily Driesenga tossed in a shot from the right wing and Molly Niemi's half-hook fell in. And senior Taylor Niemi's 3-ball from the right wing found its mark to give E-TC a 7-0 lead at the 2:51 mark.
E-TC's defense was scrappy and hustling and converged with 2-3 girls when the ball went inside.
But you could sum up Bessemer's offense in the first quarter in two words: Whitney Trcka.
There were a couple of Trcka triples as the quarter ended with E-TC up 7-6.
After E-TC's Brittany Mylllylahti banked in a 15-footer to start the second quarter, Trudgeon got into the scoring column with a shot from out on top. Bessemer went to a press and Trudgeon picked off a cross-court pass at mid-court and went in for a lay-up.
While E-TC's point guard, Molly Niemi, was dishing off some nice passes inside or making shots, Mikhayla Sampson and Trcka were raining down 3s.
But both teams missed a lot of short range shots and the Speedgirls led 17-16 at half-time.
"It was totally a game of runs," Matrella said. "E-TC is a well-coached team and they made us work for everything we got. And Whitney had another big game (21 points, 4 triples). We can move her around now. She can go inside and rebound, play defense and score or rotate outside for the 3s."
Julie Ahnen posted up inside and was fouled to start the second half. Her two free throws got the Speedgirls moving and Bessemer built up a 25-20 lead.
But every time Bessemer looked like it would get separation, the Panthers would rally back.
Molly Niemi dropped in a deep 3 and made two free throws with 13.6 seconds left to tie the third quarter at 25-25.
Niemi started the final quarter with a pull-up jumper, but Claire Tourville responded with a long 3, putting the Speedgirls back on top at 28-27.
Trcka's was the master of the 3-ball as she connected for the fourth time and Tourville scored again to give Bessemer a 39-29 advantage.
This time E-TC could not climb back towards the lead as the Speedgirls played a fine game of keep-away until they were fouled.
Molly Niemi led E-TC's offensive attack with 13 points.
Trcka had the hot hand for Bessemer with 19 points, while Trudgeon tallied 10. Trcka also hauled down 11 rebounds and Trudgeon had nine.
Bessemer won the junior varsity game 37-24.
The Panthers (2-14, 1-4 PMC) travel to Baraga for a non-conference game on Monday.
Bessemer (8-7, 3-2 PMC) goes to Hurley for an Indianhead Conference game on Monday at 7:15 p.m.
E-TC - Molly Niemi 13, Taylor Niemi 6, Becca Warnke 6, Emily Driesenga 6, Brittany Myllylahti 2, Skylar Anderson 2. FTs: 7-12. Fouls: 13. Fouled out: none. 3-pointers: Taylor Niemi 1, Molly Niemi 1.
Bessemer - Julie Ahnen 2, Mikhayla Sampson 5, Whitney Trcka 21, Sarah Trudgeon 10, Claire Tourville 5. FTs: 5-12. Fouls:15. Fouled out: none. 3-pointers: Trcka 4, Sampson 1, Tourville 1.
E-TC 7 16 25 35
Bessemer 6 17 25 43