Prep girls basketball: Marquette routs Escanaba via disruptive defense, 28 points from Viitala

ESCANABA – The Marquette Redettes showed why they’re the No. 1 ranked team in the U.P. with a 71-58 Great Northern Conference win over Escanaba on Thursday night.

Escanaba threw different defenses at the Redettes, but Marquette’s offense adjusted accordingly as they netted 43 first half points. Defensively, Marquette (14-0 overall, 4-0 in GNC) disrupted the Eskymos (5-6, 1-3) offense with an aggressive man-to-man defense that often extended into a full-court press.

Marquette head coach Ben Smith said he was happy with his team’s play, but would have liked to see a more decisive shot selection against Escanaba’s first half zone.

“We had 43 points at half-time, but our offense was to passive in a sense that we probably had seven or eight open jump-shots that we turned down and five or six of them we threw it off the wall,” Smith said.

“We had a pretty good idea they would come out in different zone looks. The biggest thing with zones is it’s hard to play zones when people are making shots. When you’re not shooting, when you’re open, you’re kind of letting them take advantage of some things. I thought we did a better job late in the first half and early in the second half.”

Marquette’s Destiny Beckwith helped loosen up Esky’s zone in the first half. The junior netted three triples in the second quarter to help Marquette build a 43-29 half-time lead.

Smith said Beckwith struggled initially against Gladstone on Tuesday, but found a rhythm late, scoring five straight points in the fourth quarter. The hot hand carried over to Thursday as she netted 19 points.

“The big thing is, you miss a couple shoots you can’t quit shooting,” Smith said. “If we’re done with you shooting the ball, I’ll let you know. I think in a lot of years, there has been very few times when we said you aren’t going to shoot. You’ve got to shoot with confidence and know you’re going to make the next one and she came out of the gates tonight and had some nice clean looks. You’ve got to step up confidently, ready to make them, and I thought she was a great example of that in the second quarter.”

Marquette led by double-digits for the majority of the game, but Escanaba kept the deficit within 15 points for most of the night. The Eskymos cut the Redettes’ lead to 48-37 with 3:25 remaining in the third quarter, but were unable to get any closer in the second half.

Escanaba head coach Dena Fedell had to turn to her bench early as leading scorer Michelle LaFave and starting guard Lynsey Collins both picked up their fourth fouls in the third quarter.

Esky finished the third quarter with their entire starting line-up on the bench but Fedell said she was encouraged by her reserves effort.

“They did a good job,” Fedell said. “Alexis Dahlgren came in and had a couple of good rebounds and she had a couple of nice shots. I definitely saw a lot of good things and it makes me proud that they step in and take notice of what they’re doing.”

LaFave scored 16 points in the first-half but spent the majority of the third quarter and part of the fourth quarter on the bench after picking up her fourth foul with 6:33 left in the third.

“One of our big keys was trying to slow down LaFave and make her earn everything,” Smith said. “We made it tough for a little while then we let her get in on the glass to much and I think fortunately for us she was in some foul trouble there so she probably wasn’t in as often as she typically would be.”

LaFave still finished with 24 points, but her absence was felt on the defensive side of the ball as Marquette was able to drive the lane more during the third quarter. Junior Hunter Viitala poured in a game high 28 points for the Redettes, many of which came in the paint.

“I think Hunter getting to the rim is huge,” Smith said. “She shoots the ball well. She had 13 rebounds and five steals. She seems to be there for us effort wise all the time.”