Prep girls basketball: Viitala leads Marquette at both ends of court

MENOMINEE – It was Senior Night at the Menominee High School gym, but Marquette’s junior defensive demons stole the show.

The Redettes dashed Menominee’s hopes of earning a Great Northern Conference title share with a 66-38 victory Friday night.

Marquette’s trapping, man-to-man defense forced 39 turnovers and picked the Maroons’ pockets for 28 steals.

Hunter Viitala filled the nets for a career-high 35 points and led the defensive destruction with 12 steals, which is believed to tie a school record.

“As a team, we’re really fast and we jump to the ball really quick,” said Viitala of the Redettes’ stifling defensive pressure. “Everybody works together.”

The lead changed hands five times in the first half before Viitala turned the game around with three straight steals and transition points to propel the Redettes to a 26-21 halftime lead.

“They had the emotion early because of Senior Night,” Marquette coach Ben Smith said. “We knew they would come in and mix it up.

“We always talk about playing as a team and playing with energy. It took us awhile to get comfortable.”

The Redettes knocked the steam out of the Maroons with a full-court showcase of defensive tenacity in the third quarter.

Viitala buried a 3-pointer to set off a 16-2 blitz.

Elizabeth Kurin swiped the ball and drilled in a baseline jumper and a Mikayla Blight steal set up another 3-ball from Viitala.

After MSHS forced a five-second turnover on the Maroons’ in-bounds play, Viitala popped in a jumper from the lane and finished off the game-breaking surge with three steals as Marquette built a 45-28 lead with 1:29 left in the third quarter.

“We got into their passing lanes and turned them over,” Smith said. “(Kurin and Viitala) put us into positions where we can be successful.”

The Maroons turned the ball over 10 times and the Redettes had five steals in the third quarter, with many of the miscues coming off sloppy passes.

“We knew they played tough man-to-man and pressed,” Menominee coach Lucas Chouinard said. “We need to focus on making better passes. We were giving up easy baskets off steals.

“I thought we played good halfcourt defense, but it’s difficult to get into our halfcourt defense when they steal the ball.”

The Redettes connected on just 3 of 18 shots from the 3-point arc against the Maroons’ zone, but used breakaways off steals to finish with a 40 percent night from the floor (24 of 60).

“A big focus defensively was getting them off the 3-point line tonight,” Chouinard said. “I thought we did a good job of that.

“They forced us to play faster than we wanted. We tried to keep up with them. It got away from us in the third quarter.”

Viitala sank 8 of 11 free throws to lead a 13 of 17 night at the line for the Redettes (7-1 GNC, 18-2 overall).

Destiny Beckwith added eight points for Marquette and Kurin made four steals.

The Redettes won the GNC title without a senior on the team.

“We knew it would be tough, but our mindset was to win the GNC and we worked real hard for it,” Viitala said.

Maddy Anderla led Menominee (4-3 GNC, 11-7 overall) with 13 points.

Marquette won the junior varsity game 49-32.