Prep girls basketball: Marquette roars back to beat Gaylord in Class A district opener

GAYLORD – Marquette overcame some early foul trouble and shooting jitters to pull out a 58-49 victory at Gaylord in the opening round of the MHSAA Class A district girls basketball tournament on Monday evening.

The Redettes (19-2) fell behind 15-5 early and still trailed 17-10 at the end of the first quarter before a big second-quarter comeback pulled them even 25-25 at halftime.

“Gaylord had a ton of energy at the start of the game,” Marquette coach Ben Smith said. “They were a little more aggressive and a little quicker than us.

“Mikayla Blight hit a jumper at around the time we were down 10 and that got us back into a positive vibe. Then Hunter (Viitala) hit a couple 3-pointers and Destiny (Beckwith) made one and that seemed to change their defense against us.”

MSHS built a lead of 47-35 by the end of the third quarter before holding off Gaylord (13-8) in the fourth.

“I thought we did a much better job getting the ball into spots where we could make plays in the second half,” Smith said. “Our girls aren’t super thrilled with how they played, but you have to take pride in that we gutted this one out.”

Viitala scored 14 points, hitting three 3-pointers, and also made three steals, two assists, two blocked shots and three rebounds. Maddie Connon added 10 points and eight rebounds, while Shayla Huebner had six rebounds and four assists.

Sophomore Kayce Mullett, one of several underclassmen added to the all-junior roster for the tournament, pulled down a team-high nine rebounds.

For Gaylord, Madison Hamilla scored a game-high 17 rebounds. She is the daughter of Blue Devils coach Frank Hamilla, who is a native of Munising. Madison Hamilla has also signed a National Letter of Intent to attend and play soccer at Northern Michigan University.

Gaylord teammate Sydney Gooding scored 11 points.

Marquette pulled in 43 rebounds to help overcome some shaky shooting – the Redettes were just 21 of 66 from the field (32 percent), including 6 of 25 on triples (24 percent). And MSHS made barely half their free throws, 10 of 19.

“We need to take better advantage of our opportunities at the line,” Smith said.

Next up for Marquette is Traverse City West, which held off Sault Ste. Marie 33-29 in overtime on Monday. The game will be played at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.

Though the Titans are only 9-11, they came on strong in the second half of the season after several of their best players returned to the lineup.

“Coach Dave Ginsberg preaches defense and discipline,” Smith said of TC West. “Our goal is to try to prepare for whatever style we have to play.”

In the other half of the bracket, TC Central defeated Petoskey 45-29 and will host Alpena on Wednesday.

If Marquette wins Wednesday, the Redettes host the district championship game at 6 p.m. Friday.