Marquette tops Negaunee in battle of top Upper Peninsula girls basketball teams

Fortunately for Marquette and Negaunee, this wasn’t a gymnastics meet or a diving competition on Saturday afternoon.

That’s because the style points would’ve been hard to come by when two of the Upper Peninsula’s top high school girls basketball teams got together at Lakeview Memorial Gymnasium.

Of course, gymnasts and divers aren’t allowed to play defense, but basketball players are as the visiting and No. 1-ranked Redettes prevailed, 59-47.

“We try to get a lot of steals so we don’t have to set up our offense,” MSHS senior Mogan Seibert said.

There was no shortage of entertainment in this game, especially since the underdog and No. 3 Miners led at halftime, 23-22.

Both offenses were challenged by the swarming defensive presence their opponent takes pride in.

But the difference on Saturday came in the middle two quarters. While MSHS coach Ben Smith wasn’t particularly pleased with his team’s performance in the second quarter, the Redettes (17-3) still stayed within striking distance.

Then when the Miners (15-5) had their own letdown in the third quarter, Marquette pulled away, outscoring Negaunee 13-2 in the first 4:15 after intermission.

“In the second quarter, we let them loose a little bit and take a couple 3-pointers when we didn’t have a hand in their face,” Smith said. “You might let it happen once, but when it happens three or four times, you’ve got to close down that space.

“But I thought we still played well enough to lead at halftime. You have to give credit to Negaunee for playing as well and as hard as they did.”

Even though there wasn’t a conference or tournament title on the line in the final regular season game for both teams, coach Negaunee Brandon Sager knew his Miners faced a tall task.

“In the third quarter, we just didn’t execute as well as we did in the first half,” he said. “When you’re playing a team like Marquette, you have to play every second like we did in the first half. They’re a very disciplined, very talented team.

“We had a couple of mental breakdowns, and there seemed to be a sense of urgency that really didn’t have to be there.”

Even when they fell behind 40-29 after Marquette’s early second-half surge, the Miners still had a few tricks up their sleeves.

Sophomore forward Adena Anderson hit a pair of triples less than 40 seconds apart from the top of the key, pulling NHS within 40-35 with 1:34 left in the third.

A third 3-pointer she took during that span from the right side went in and out of the basket, otherwise Negaunee would’ve been another long-range bomb away from retaking the lead.

In all, eight of the Miners’ 13 baskets were triples as they attempted a nearly equal number from 2- and 3-point range, though they only sank 23.6 percent from the field.

“We’ve been struggling with our offense lately, and one point I’ve emphasized is staying aggressive at the offensive end,” Sager said.

Marquette held off every other Negaunee rally, leading 42-37 entering the fourth and quickly upping the lead to double digits for the rest of the game.

Marquette sophomore Hunter Viitala scored a game-high 18 points, making 7-of-8 shots from the field, and added six rebounds and three steals. Seibert finished with 11 points and five boards, while senior Liana Storm contributed six points, six steals and eight assists.

For the Miners, Anderson finished with 10 points and five rebounds, while senior Kayla Hakala also pulled down five rebounds and senior Ashley Veale made three steals.

Marquette won the JV game, 75-33.