Prep girls basketball: Kingsford hands Marquette first loss of the season

KINGSFORD – With a crisp snap of the net, Courtney Qualley and the Kingsford Flivvers ended Marquette’s perfect season.

Coolly sinking a game-winning free throw with two-tenths of a second remaining, Qualley lifted Kingsford to a stunning 48-47 upset victory over the Class ABC No. 1-ranked Redettes Friday in Great Northern Conference girls basketball.

“I’ve never felt so much pressure in my life,” the Flivver junior said. “I just knew I had to make it. I struggled throughout the whole game and I just knew that nothing mattered except this right now.”

Qualley’s moment at the line came following a timeout called by Marquette coach Ben Smith in an attempt to ice the shooter. She responded by releasing a high-arcing shot and dropping a no-doubter straight through the net.

After she purposely missed the second shot, Marquette had only enough time for a desperation heave from the backcourt, which fell way short.

Qualley was immediately mobbed by her teammates in celebration.

“I just can’t say enough about this effort tonight,” Flivvers head coach Mike Cross said. “They hung in there and played tough against a really good team. I’m just so proud.”

The movie-script ending was set up when Marquette’s Elizabeth Kurin tied the game with 13.3 seconds to play with a reverse lay-up off a feed from Hunter Viitala.

As the Flivvers tried to set up in the halfcourt, Marquette’s pressure stiffened. The ball was briefly knocked loose in the right corner.

As Qualley battled to maintain control, Marquette’s Morgan Leadbetter tried to make a play for the ball. In the rush, she unintentionally tripped Qualley and a foul was called.

Smith said the final sequence didn’t tell the full story of the game.

“We gave up a 19-point first quarter. That’s not good enough,” he said. “We missed 13 free throws tonight. That’s not what you need to do to win basketball games.

“Looking at a play or two down the stretch is crazy. There were a number of plays early and throughout the game. Credit Kingsford. They played hard the whole way and we knew they would.”

A tight battle the entire second half, Marquette (16-1, 6-1 GNC) grabbed a 45-43 lead when Kurin grabbed a missed Redette free throw and put it back in with 1:45 to play.

Kingsford’s Amber Larson, the game’s leading scorer with 17 points, tied it with a drive and short jumper that she hit as she fell hard to the floor.

The game remained tied 45-45 as the clock dipped below a minute to play. Qualley was then fouled with 28.8 to go. She nailed both free throws to give the lead back to Kingsford (7-8, 2-4).

But Kurin then worked her magic under the basket thanks to the perfect feed from Vittala.

Coach Cross credited his defense for keeping the game close throughout.

“To hold No. 1 Marquette to 47 points was awesome,” he said. “That was the big thing. The intensity level, the heart, that’s what we needed all year.”

Viitala and Destiny Beckwith led Marquette (16-1, 6-1) with 13 points each. But the Redettes missed 6-of-10 from the foul line in the final frame.

“It’s one of those things, the bullseye has been on us all year,” Smith said. “We’ve had games where we didn’t play well and came out with victories.

“On any given night, you have to be ready to go. You don’t just show up and win.”

Marquette, with 10 turnovers in the first quarter, fell behind 19-12. Kingsford then expanded its lead to 25-14 in the second quarter before Beckwith buried a triple to ignite Marquette on a 13-2 spurt. Beckwith added a second triple to tie the score 27-27.

Marquette finished 11-for-23 at the line, while Kingsford was 10-of-16.

Marquette controlled the JV game, 60-17.