EAGLE RIVER, Wis.—Northern Wisconsin coach Ryan Clark of Rhinelander was a little uncomfortable calling it good defense when his team gave up 99 points in Wednesday’s Kiwanis Classic Border Bash.
And while the boys game later in the night featured little defense, he thought that was the difference in his team’s 108-99 win over Northern Michigan.
Wisconsin trailed by as many as 10 points in the first half and was down by four, 52-48, at the half, before turning the tables early in the second half and taking a double-digit lead.
To be fair, scoring is bound to be up with the games lasting 52 minutes compared to 32 (Michigan) to 36 (Wisconsin) in a normal high school game.
“At halftime, we just talked a little bit about I thought they were driving on us pretty aggressively,” Clark said. “So we wanted to get into help a little bit more, get in the gap. The second half, I thought they played really good defense, even though I don’t usually say great defense when you leave a team to 99 points, but I thought did a really nice job defensively.”
About four and a half hours before the game, they were still learning each other’s names. Right before the game, Clark warned his team about his competitiveness and his desire to win the game even though it is just an all-star game.
“And at halftime, they were like, man, let’s go win this one,” he said. “Super talented young ladies.”
Waukesha Catholic Memorial’s Alyssa Nimz, a Northern Michigan University recruit, scored 29 points to lead all scorers and take home MVP honors back to southeastern Wisconsin.
“I think she could do just a little bit of everything,” Clark said. “She’s just super skilled. And she’s like a 6-foot position-less player. She plays inside, she can play outside, she can post up, shoot it, she hits her free throws and she can lead us on the break. But when we needed a basket, I felt like we could always go to her and she’d find a way. So super talented player … she definitely earned the MVP.”
Edgar’s all-time leading scorer, Makenna Gruden (5-7), scored 24 points, Merrill’s Courtney Krueger (5-5) had 15 and Alexa Thomson (5-8) of West De Pere scored 15.
Michigan coach Jacky Besonen of Ewen-Trout Creek thought her team went cold in the second half.
“We did not shoot well,” she said. “We went on a run there where it seemed like we were making nothing. And they were hitting some good shots, too. So I think that was a big difference.”
Menominee’s Emma Anderson led Michigan with 17 points. She was an All-U.P. Dream Team selection the past two years and she was Miss U.P. Basketball as a junior. Her teammate, Erin Barette, scored 13.
Clark said Anderson hurt them in the first half the way she shot the ball, she had 12 points in the half. He said Escanaba’s Nicole Kamin, this year’s Miss U.P. Basketball, was a tough guard—“she’s quick and aggressive and she had a little length to her.”
“They finished well and their guards are quick,” he said.
St. Ignace’s Hallie Marshall finished with 14 points. Maija Rice of L’Anse scored 12.
Both Ewen-Trout Creek players were in double figures with Abbie LeGault scoring 13 and Elise Besonen getting 11.
Surrounded by scorers, Besonen, the U.P. Division 4 Player of the Year, was able to be a true point guard, and she did well setting up her teammates, including her longtime teammate LeGault.
“She wasn’t looking to score very much at all, she was distributing,” coach Besonen said of Elise. “I thought she played a good game as far as taking care of the ball and distributing.”
“(LeGault) played very well, she had some good rebounds.”
Besonen won the 3-point competition at halftime.
Coach Besonen said it was obvious the girls who were teammates in high school, like Besonen and LeGault, and the Menominee and St. Ignace girls, as there isn’t much time to get used to each otherwise during the one-day event.
She was impressed with the defense from the St. Ignace teammates of Emmalee Hart and Marshall.
Besonen said the game was fun to be a part of.
“It was fun to get them together and see them play one more time. I told them one last time in your high school uniform,” she said.
Clark was happy with the experience this game gave the athletes.
“I’m glad they do this, it’s fun for the kids,” he said. “To me after the long year of COVID, it’s nice to have these opportunities back for kids to just enjoy playing a little bit.”
It was the second straight win for Wisconsin, which leads the matchups 4-3.
Michigan—Nicole Kamin (Escanaba) 9, Emmalee Hart (St. Ignace) 8, Erin Barette (Menominee) 13, Hallie Marshall (St. Ignace) 14, Maija Rice (L’Anse) 12, Abbie LeGault (Ewen-Trout Creek) 13, Elise Besonen (E-TC) 11, Emila Palomaki (Negaunee) 1, Emma Anderson (Menominee) 17, Ellie Miller (Westwood) 1. FTs: 17-26.
Wisconsin—Makenna Gruden (Edgar) 24, Courtney Krueger (Merrill) 15, Kylie Higgins (Laona-Wabeno) 0, Brooke Widerman (Amherst) 7, Rebecca Lawrence (Rhinelander) 9, Kiandra Hartman (Prentice) 6, Amaya White (Lakeland) 3, Alyssa Nimz (Catholic Memorial) 29, Alexa Thompson (West De Pere) 15.