District champs: Free throws key Ishpeming’s MHSAA girls victory over Negaunee

NEGAUNEE – Her numbers in the box score look fairly modest, but Ishpeming senior guard Jordan Grigg came up big with the eight points she scored on Friday night.

A half dozen of those came during a 6-for-6 performance at the free-throw line in the final 1:04 as the Hematites scored a mild upset of Negaunee, 45-41, for the Class C district tournament championship at Lakeview Memorial Gym.

Buried even deeper in Grigg’s stats was the backcourt pass she made in the waning seconds that helped clinch the win.

After Miners sophomore Adena Anderson made a pair of free throws to cut Ishpeming’s lead to 42-41 with 15.4 seconds left, Grigg took the enusing inbounds pass and immediately drew three defenders, with a fourth closing in.

She could’ve waited to get fouled and make another trip to the free-throw line. Instead, with nearly all the rest of her team undefended, she alertly zipped the ball to sophomore teammate Kaylie Engler at midcourt, who quickly passed ahead to fellow sophomore Jessica Spencer.

Spencer saw an opening, went strong to the hole, scored and was fouled.

The resulting free throw, capping off her team’s 11-of-11 performance at the line in the fourth, gave Ishpeming an insurmountable four-point lead over their nearby Mid-Peninsula Conference rivals.

“I saw an opening and passed it to Kaylie,” Grigg said, admitting that her head coach, Mark Dellangelo, had planned on her drawing a foul and taking their chances there.

“But that was a great play and it’s what sealed it,” Dellangelo said. “One of the things we want is the ball in Jordan’s hands at the end of the game. She’s our best free-throw shooter and she just has that calm demeanor.”

Though both teams are now 16-6, it will be Ishpeming that advances to the Class C regional tourney at Marquette Senior High School on Tuesday night to play another M-PC foe, Manistique, at 6 p.m.

Friday’s game was tight throughout despite Ishpeming leading for all but 18 seconds of it. That’s because the M-PC regular-season champions trailed by more than five points only once during a 55-second span in the fourth quarter.

“This was two championship-caliber teams out there tonight,” said Dellangelo, who led the Hematites to their third straight district title.

“Negaunee answered everything we threw at them. It seemed like when we scored, then they would score.”

The game started slowly on the scoreboard, however, with Ishpeming holding a 4-0 lead halfway through the opening period.

“In the first half, I want to say that we were a little nervous,” Miners coach Brandon Sager said.

With Ishpeming leading 19-16 at halftime, Negaunee pulled even at 25-25 when senior Ashley Veale went coast to coast.

Spencer finished with game highs of 19 points, seven rebounds and five steals.

Senior guard Taylor Wilber led Negaunee with 13 points and Rosalie Anderson added 11 points.

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.