Prep girls basketball: Viitala nets 26 points on birthday as Marquette beats Negaunee

NEGAUNEE – Hunter Viitala celebrated her 17th birthday in impressive style Tuesday night.

The Marquette Senior High School junior guard poured in 26 points – just four below her career high – in sparking the Redettes to a 43-30 nonconference girls basketball win over host Negaunee.

“I just wanted a win for my team,” she said after MSHS improved to 6-0 overall.

Viitala also grabbed five rebounds, made six steals, blocked a shot and recorded an assist in a sparkling performance.

“She plays with her head up,” Marquette head coach Ben Smith said. “If she has an advantage, we hope she will take it.”

Viitala scored eight points in the first quarter as the Redettes rolled to a 16-6 lead, then added eight in the second to help give her team a 27-15 advantage at the half.

“We got a good jump at the beginning,” she said. “In our run-and-jump press, when (an opponent) turns, we go after the ball with a double-team.”

Viitala turned four of her steals into buckets.

“She has great anticipation (on defense) and can finish with the best of them,” Negaunee head coach Brandon Sager said. “I thought we guarded her pretty well in the halfcourt, though.”

As if dealing with Viitala wasn’t enough, the Miners wilted under a daunting MSHS pressing defense that led to an unofficial 21 steals among 29 total Negaunee turnovers.

“You’re not going to win too many games with 29 turnovers,” Sager said. “We’re young and still trying to figure things out.

“We made some bad decisions and dug ourselves too deep a hole.”

Smith said the Redettes use the press to “change the tempo of the game.”

“We try to make tough decisions for the ballhandlers,” Smith said.

The Miners (1-3) got nine points and five rebounds from Aleda Johnson.

NHS star senior forward Rosalie Anderson, in her first game this season after recovering from a sprained ankle sustained in preseason drills, tossed in six points.

She sank 3 of 7 shots from the field and missed her only two field goal tries.

“I’ve been waiting for a while (to get on the court),” she said. “I was nervous coming in, but coach told me to calm my nerves.

“I’m not 100 percent and still a little slow. I have a lot to work on and to make better decisions.”

MSHS outrebounded the Miners, 28-25, with Maddie Connon leading the Redettes with seven.

“I’m happy with our effort, but we have a lot of work to do,” Smith said.

Marquette won the JV game, 74-21.