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South Shore escapes Ironwood with five-point win


December 5, 2015

Jason Juno/Daily Globe

Ironwood's Vanessa Nasi extends for a rebound as South Shore's Crystal Stewart watches during Friday night's Indianhead Conference game at John Krznarich Gym in Ironwood.

IRONWOOD - Ironwood proved that focusing a defense on Emily DiGiorgio isn't going to work.

The Devils received balanced scoring, but it wasn't enough as Shauna Kavajecz had a monster night, made the game-deciding play in crunch time, and led South Shore to a 68-63 Indianhead Conference victory over Ironwood Friday.

The Cardinals beat two conference contenders this week in Hurley and Ironwood, even though Megan Gustafson is playing at Division I Iowa this year instead of Port Wing.

The Cardinals focused their defense on All-U.P. Second Teamer Emily DiGiorgio. But Ironwood finished with four players in double digits, led by Taylor Mylly's 21. They shot 20 of 31 on 2-point shots and were able to get to the rim for easy shots much of the night.

"Our focus coming in was to try to limit her touches," South Shore coach Ryan Tiberg said. "Unfortunately, the other players were able to get to the basket, so I guess it's pick your poison. ... They carved up our defense tonight."

The Red Devils jumped out to a 14-2 lead, as five different players scored, most of them at the rim. The Devils maintained a small four-point lead, 30-26, at halftime. The second half was excellent with both teams leading at times.

Ironwood came up short down the stretch, losing its second close, competitive game to start the season to Indianhead Conference contenders.

"It's a tough loss," Ironwood coach Kari Jacquart said. "But it's hard not to be really proud of the effort. It was our first home game. We really wanted that win. They fought through, they played together. It's hard not to be proud of the effort because we're getting better and that's what we wanted.

"Obviously not getting the victory was tough, but I think we gave the fans an exciting game and just had some mental mistakes at the end."

Ironwood fell behind 52-47 with 8:18 left as Kavajecz made one of her 12 steals and then got fouled on the other end where she made one of two free throws on her way to a game-high 29 points.

The Devils came back to tie it at 55 on a pull-up jumper by Kacie Lundin with 3:53 left. It went back and forth from there with two free throws by Ironwood sophomore Makenzie Marshall tying it at 61 with 1:11 on the clock.

Seven seconds later, Lundin forced a tieup on top and the possession arrow was in Ironwood's direction.

Ironwood called timeout and were killing clock when Kavajecz picked off a pass and like she had so many times Friday, laid it in. Lundin fouled out trying to stop her and she made the free throw, putting South Shore up 64-61 with 49.9 seconds left.

"We wanted to work the ball down to 15 seconds and then look for Emily to post up or somebody to drive so we could get fouled, stop the clock and make the free throws," Jacquart said. "We just got careless with the end. We have to work on turnovers. If you don't protect the ball, you're not going to win."

South Shore stole it three more times before the buzzer sounded.

South Shore's Morgan Sorenson stole it from Ironwood and Mylly fouled out trying to stop her. She missed the free throw though and Kavajecz stole it yet again from Ironwood and made one free throw for a 65-61 Cardinal lead. South Shore got another steal and basket to seal the deal.

At one point in the first half, Kavajecz had three steals in a short period of time, and scored on a runout twice, but not the third. She has been atop the conference in steals for several years. Tiberg said she made a huge play to give South Shore the lead for good with under a minute left.

"She just has a knack for reading that passing lane, Tiberg said. "The big thing was the other players were able to stop the ball to force that, which she went and got."

South Shore had four starters coming back after losing Gustafson. Tiberg expects his team is catching other teams off guard as a result, even if the other four starters are back with a JV team that went 14-5 adding depth.

"It's hard to replace a player of that caliber," he said. "As they learn to gel together and learn to realize Megan was no longer here and they have to do it, it's getting better and better."

DiGiorgio still finished as the second leading scorer for Ironwood with 12 points. She had a team-best 14 rebounds. Nasi and Lundin both had 10 points.

Mylly shined with the 21 points.

"Taylor had a monster night," Jacquart said. "I don't think she's attacked that much since I've seen her in practice. Emily had a double-double, which is what we're wanting her to average. We had nice balance. Vanessa Nasi came off the bench, she's just a monster defender and then she gets 10 points. Kacie was solid as well"

Ironwood (0-2) goes to Washburn Tuesday night for another conference game.

South Shore - Morgan Sorenson 6, Alyssa Kavajecz 20, Emma Ostrenga 13, Shauna Kavajecz 29. FTs: 13-21. Fouls: 18. Fouled out: Kira Waters. 3-pointers: S. Kavajecz 3.

Ironwood - Alyssa Huotari 6, Taylor Mylly 21, Makenzie Marshall 4, Vanessa Nasi 10, Kacie Lundin 10, Emily DiGiorgio 12. FTs: 11-19. Fouls: 15. Fouled out: Mylly, Lundin. 3-pointers: Mylly 2.

South Shore 26 68

Ironwood 30 63


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