U.P. girls make most of trip to Europe

No doubt members of Team Michigan – a 10-member girls basketball squad from the Upper Peninsula – are just getting their lives back to normal after a whirlwind, 14-day trip to three European countries.

The girls, including Destiny Beckwith, Lizzy Kurin and Shayla Huebner of Marquette and Kaylie Engler of Ishpeming, played 13 games in two weeks ending Wednesday. The squad went 8-5 despite losing its first three games.

“Considering the talent we played, we did really well,” head coach Lisa Coombs-Gerou of Marquette said.

Team Michigan faced the Estonia national team, an under-20 squad from Latvia and captured a bronze medal in the Delfin Tournament in Finland that featured nearly 290 teams from 11 countries.

Only a one-point loss in what Coombs-Gerou said was “sudden victory overtime,” where whoever scores first wins, kept Team Michigan from the Delfin championship game.

“It was disappointing, as the girls had gone 4-0 in pool play going into the semifinals,” Coombs-Gerou said. “We didn’t shoot free throws well (in that game), though.”

It took Team Michigan players a while to get used to European rules that called for a 25-second shot clock and stricter enforcement of traveling that led to numerous turnovers.

Also, the 3-point line in Europe was one used like in U.S. colleges, not high schools that have it closer to the basket.

“Because of that, we didn’t take a lot of 3-point shots,” Coombs-Gerou said. “We worked the ball around. One game, we had 20 assists.”

Team Michigan worked so well together that most games, every member scored. Of the 10 players, eight wound up as the squad’s leading scorer in games.

The girls enjoyed “fantastic” food, got to see many sites, bonded with their host families and learned a lot about different cultures.

Young members of many host families wanted to “keep” the Team Michigan players for themselves and not let them return to the U.S.

That, no doubt, says a lot about the character of the peninsula players and how well they represented themselves, the U.P. and the U.S.

Not only that, but the U.P. players – many who face each other during regular-season high school play – put those rivalries aside and became good friends.

“It was a great opportunity to learn more about life and each other,” Coombs-Gerou said.

The only problem the Team Michigan coach could remember was Engler and Caitlyn Frazer of Bark River missing a bus stop and getting lost for a time.

“But they got back in time for a game,” she said.

How fortunate these girls got to make the trip. They’ll have memories that will last a lifetime.

Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251. His email address is cremsburg@miningjournal.net.