Defending state champs dominate Cardinals
WAKEFIELD — When Wakefield-Marenisco athletic director Mark Lane had a solution for the Cardinals open spot on the schedule, he suggested coach Bruce Mahler sit down before he told him.
It was Class C defending state champion Calumet.
Mahler didn't hesitate to take the game.
Calumet dominated from start to finish, beating the Cardinals 76-25 Monday night. But it wasn’t about the final score for W-M.
“It'll make the girls better," W-M coach Bruce Mahler said. "It's not about wins and losses. We have one goal, which is to try to get to a district championship and this helps us get there."
The Copper Kings improved to 7-0 and remained the only unbeaten big school in the Upper Peninsula. They're one of the few with aspirations to finish their season below the Mackinac Bridge this season.
The Cardinals couldn't match up with the size of Calumet's front line, which consisted of Janie Torola (6-1), Hailey Wickstrom (6-1) and Loretta Halonen (5-10). W-M's tallest player is 5-9.
Mahler expects the game to help them prepare for another opponent with size, Crystal Falls Forest Park, in the district tournament, should the teams meet.
"It'll prepare us," he said. "We didn't match up well, but we took the game with the state Class C champions. We're a small Class D school. Hey, I'm happy with the way they played because we just did not match up well with them, but the girls played hard.
"I'm not disappointed at all. It would have been nice not to get running clock at all, but what can you do?"
W-M did have success breaking through the Calumet press, forcing them to pull it off in the first half.
"It wasn't only because they had a lead, it was because we were beating their press," Mahler said. "We got up the floor and we just didn't finish and put the ball in the hole. That had to do with 6-2 girls down there that are defending our girls coming down. Still, that's one of the things we worked on all year, that's one of the things we worked on against them. I don't think there's any team that we can't break their press."
Calumet coach Jeff Twardzik gave credit to the Cardinals.
"I really think the score is not indicative of that team," said Twardzik, who learned of the ACL injury suffered by all-conference performer Lauren Grace in the summer. "I really think they're a player away from being good."
The Copper Kings also have a good shooter in Clara Loukus, whose 3 put Calumet ahead 16-2 very early on. The running clock started about a minute into the second half.
Loukus led Calumet's extremely balanced attack with 14 points. Alexa Anderson, Leah Kiilunen and Loretta Halonen all scored 10. Celia Peterson and Hailey Wickstrom both had nine and Janie Torola eight.
Twardzik said the Copper Kings are always balanced, no matter the score.
"We've got that 6-0, 6-1 down low and plus with the speed we have on top, we're not missing any pieces of the puzzle, so I think it's hard for any team to expose one girl," Twardzik said. "We do stay very balanced. If they one of those pieces out, hopefully we can fall back on another."
Calumet lost six seniors, including four starters, from last year's state championship team, but they don't seem to have skipped a beat.
"The thing that they have that there's best quality is they work harder than anybody else and it just shows on the basketball court," Twardzik said. "In practice, it's never easy and they don't make it easy on themselves. That's a mirror of what they have last year."
And the goal is similar to lsat year.
"I think everybody wants to win the whole thing," Twardzik said. "That should be your goal to start with. That's where our head's at, win the conference, win the district, win the regional and win the whole thing."
Defending Class D state champion St. Ignace moved up to Class C, setting up a probable regional matchup.
"We're kind on a collision course with them, I think, but we'll see what happens," Twardzik said.
Kassidee Yon scored 12 points to lead W-M.
W-M (3-3) goes to Dollar Bay on Thursday for a Copper Mountain Conference game.
"We match up much better with them," Mahler said. "They've got some girls, some good shooters on the outside. That's why I think this game was important for us because it worked on getting our girls on a little man-to-man at some points and some other areas to get on their shooters, which we need to work on that for some of the teams we’re facing. That's another reason I think this game helps us in the long run."
Calumet — Clara Loukus 14, Alexa Anderson 10, Betsa Anderson 2, Lea Bjorn 10, Leah Kiilunen 10, Celia Peterson 3, Hailey Wickstrom 9, Loretta Halonen 10, Janie Torola 8. FTs: 9-12. Fouls: 7. Fouled out: None. 3-pointers: Loukus 2, A. Anderson 1.
W-M — Darienne Korpi 5, Alexa Jilek 2, Saundra Libertoski 2, Rachel Obradovich 2, Hallee Yon 2, Kassidee Yon 12. FTs: 0-4. Fouls: 11. Fouled out: None. 3-pointers: Korpi 1.
Calumet 26 48 63 76
W-M 6 14 19 25