Prep girls basketball: Ishpeming’s Jessica Spencer scores career-high 30 in win over Gwinn

ISHPEMING – With two of his players sidelined with concussions, Ishpeming High School girls basketball coach Tom Graves needed someone to step up against visiting Gwinn Wednesday night.

Jessica Spencer did just that and more.

The 5-foot-9 junior forward poured in a career-high 30 points to power the Hematites to a 58-38 Mid-Peninsula Conference victory and snap a two-game losing streak.

IHS junior forward Kaylie Engler and sophomore forward Jessica Penhale missed the game due to their injuries.

“Not having those two, it was tough for us,” Graves said. “But you have to have someone step up when someone is hurt.”

Graves hopes to have Engler and Penhale back in action Monday, but Spencer made up for their absences against Gwinn.

“We talked the other day. I said ‘I’m going to challenge you, Jess. With a couple of key injuries, I need you to step up,'” Graves said.

“She scored 30 points, played good defense and was one of our rebounding leaders (with Gabby Croley) with five.

“Jessica’s game is evolving,” he added. “She used to be just a back-to-the-basket player. Now she’s feeling more comfortable around the perimeter.”

Spencer scored 14 points in the first half to help give Ishpeming (8-4, 5-2 M-PC) a 23-16 lead at intermission.

She then dumped in 10 points in the third quarter as the Hematites outscored the Modeltowners (4-8, 2-5) by a 20-12 margin.

“She made a lot of tough shots,” Gwinn coach Ben Olsen said. “She made shots over the top of our people.

“We’re in a bit of a slide. Ishpeming just outplayed us. They definitely wanted it more.”

Olsen said he had a long talk with his players in the locker room after the game.

“I told them we had two ways to go. We could collapse and mail it in the rest of the season, or come together and still reach our goal,” Olsen said. “Our goal is to win the district.”

Croley added 11 points for Ishpeming, while Ellie Olsen – hounded all game long by Ishpeming defender Tammy Simula – tossed in a hard-earned 13 points for Gwinn.

“Tammy’s a workhorse,” Graves said. “She did an excellent job defending Olsen.”

Said coach Olsen (no relation to Ellie): “She was getting bumped a lot. I told her she would have to play through it. It was very physical in between the circles.”

Tori Lauren complemented Ellie Olsen with 10 points.

The Hematites held a 31-19 lead early in the third quarter before Gwinn went on a 7-0 run with the help of three free throws by Jordyn Hutchens to close the gap to just five points. But after Graves called a time out, Ishpeming outscored the Modeltowners 12-2 behind six points by Spencer and four by Croley to take a comfortable 43-28 advantage into the fourth quarter.

“I knew I had to focus,” Spencer said. “We had more intensity and that made me play harder.

“I knew we had to pick it up after that time out to get a win. We brought it, then.”

A key factor in the game was turnovers. Gwinn committed 21 while Ishpeming had just seven – one in the first half.

The Hematites won the JV game, 54-28.