Prep girls basketball: Seniors come through for Westwood to clinch share of M-PC title

ISHPEMING – Seniors Caitlin Hewitt and Elizabeth Dauphinais-VanBuren of the Westwood High School girls basketball team weren’t just going to end their home careers with a loss Thursday night.

Hewitt scored 16 points – including four off free throws in the final 23.3 seconds – and Dauphinais-VanBuren added 14 to lead the Patriots to a 43-40 Mid-Peninsula Conference victory over visiting Gwinn.

The triumph gave WHS (13-7, 10-2 league) a share of the M-PC title with Negaunee, which beat Ishpeming 53-49 Thursday night.

“If there was one word to sum up our game tonight, it would be seniors,” WHS head coach Kurt Corcoran said. “Caitlin and Lizzie put us on their backs.

“They just refused to lose.”

Ironically, it was Senior Night at WHS.

Hewitt, who canned 6 of 6 free throws in the final 2:44, said she was nervous at the line.

“Normally I don’t make free throws,” the 5-foot-6 guard said. “I shoot about 60 percent. But I got more confidence each time I made one.”

After Tori Lauren – who led Gwinn with 15 points – sank a putback to give her team a 40-39 advantage, a Dauphinais-VanBuren steal led to Hewitt later sinking two free throws.

After another Westwood steal, Hewitt – who added four steals and three assists to her night’s work – calmly buried two more free throws with 15.6 seconds left to end the scoring.

“We couldn’t clinch the league title Tuesday against Norway because of a lack of free throws (on 5 of 24 shooting),” Corcoran said. “It was nice to see us make free throws at the end (tonight) to seal it.”

Gwinn (9-11, 6-6), which also got 12 points from Jordyn Hutchens, led 24-23 at the half before Dauphinais-VanBuren tossed in eight points and Hewitt three to rally the Patriots to a 36-32 advantage.

“We’ve lost so many different ways (this season),” Gwinn coach Ben Olsen said. “We lost four games by a combined eight points.

“It’s really not fair to lose the way we’ve lost. You’d think the basketball gods would throw you a cookie.”

Turnovers cost the Modeltowners. A withering Westwood full court press helped lead to 26 Gwinn turnovers.

“We turned the ball over a lot,” Olsen said. “When you can’t handle that kind of pressure … Give (Westwood) credit. That’s how they play. That’s how they win. They beat us with their game.

“We figured out their press at the end, but just couldn’t catch a break,” he added.

While Olsen praised Lauren, who also snared a team-high eight rebounds, Corcoran lauded 5-9 junior forward Katie Rankinen for her work on the glass.

“She came out with 10 rebounds against Gwinn’s ‘trees’ inside,” he said. “She did an amazing job.”

Westwood won the junior varsity game, 38-17.