MOUNTAIN IRON – The Mountain Iron-Buhl girls’ basketball team needed a boost of energy late in their contest with Cass Lake-Bena Monday night.
The Rangers and the Panthers found themselves knotted up at 46 apiece with just under eight minutes to play when MI-B suddenly went on an 18-3 run, 15 of those points coming from beyond the arc. CL-B managed to cut the deficit down to 10, but the Rangers held them off for the 74-64 win.
With the two teams playing it close for the first 28 minutes of the game, Rangers head coach Jeff Buffetta says his team just needed to come out with more energy, something they’ve struggled with at times since the beginning of the season.
“This is how it was the other night. Right now we need to play with more energy,” Buffetta said. “Right now we’re playing really flat and not playing with the energy we need to. And, you know what, the other teams are just playing harder than us for longer spurts than we are. It’s not to say we’re not having our moments but the other teams are playing harder for longer spurts and that’s something we need to work on fixing.”
The Panthers took advantage of the sluggish Rangers early on both inside and out. The ball often ended up in the hands of junior Taryn Frazer, who punished MI-B from both long- and short-range. The Panthers also used height to their advantage, feeding the ball into junior Amira LaDuke, who had at least a few inches on the tallest MI-B player.
The Rangers grabbed the first bucket on a long two-pointer from Lauren Maki to start things off. Sage Ganyo added two more on a steal and ensuing layup on the other end of the court. Ganyo kept the scoring up with a pair of points in the paint later to give MI-B a 6-5 lead.
The Panthers responded with eight straight points of their own. Krisalyn Seeyle knocked down a jumper to give CL-B the lead before Mya Reyes added two more down low. Frazer scored on the next possession down on a layup and then knocked down one more shot to stretch out the lead.
After an MI-B free throw, Maki responded with another long-range shot, this one worth three points to make it 13-10 CL-B.
Junior Ava Butler looked strong in the first half for Mountain Iron-Buhl, knocking down shots inside and going a perfect 4-4 on free throws. While the Panthers played with a slight lead for most of the half, Butler’s points always kept the Rangers nearby.
The Panthers found success with Seeyle in the first half, as well as with LaDuke’s inside game. The pair combined for 18 first-half points. When the half ended, the two teams were tied at 31 apiece, with Butler (10) and Maki (8) also combining for 18 points.
Frazer made her presence known in the second half, taking any open shot she could find and driving to the rim when she saw an open lane, forcing the Rangers to foul or give up the points.
Tied at 35, an open three from Jordan Zubich put MI-B on top 38-35, but LaDuke tied things up on a made free throw, followed by a putback bucket for two. Butler added one of two from the free throw line before Jacie Kvas knocked one down from the elbow to put the Rangers back up by three, 41-38.
The Panthers went on an eight-point run following a timeout and looked like they might pull away from the Rangers halfway through the second half. Reyes knocked down one of two free throws then LaDuke took the open layup for two more.
Frazer hit a nice turn-around shot to put her squad up by two and then drove to the hoop on the next possession, made her shot and was fouled along the way. Frazer completed the three-point-play, giving CL-B a 46-41 lead.
The Rangers’ Ganyo stopped the bleeding with a three of her own before Kvas was fouled on the next possession. Kvas knocked down both free throws to knot things back up. A pivotal moment in the game, Buffetta took a timeout and gave his team a short rest.
Out of the break, the Rangers found the energy they so desperately needed to put the game away. Following two free throws, MI-B hit three straight threes from Butler, Ganyo and Zubich to take a 57-46 lead. The Panthers’ Gabby Fineday responded with a three of her own, but the Rangers weren’t done yet as Ganyo and Zubich each knocked down another three to make it 63-49.
Over the next two plays, Zubich went 3-4 at the free throw line following a three from Frazer. MI-B’s Hali Savela then hit a layup to put her squad up 16, 68-52. Cass Lake-Bena managed to close the gap to just 10, but the Rangers held on thanks to their late surge, giving them the 74-64 win.
Zubich and Ganyo led the Rangers with 17 points apiece. Butler finished with 16. CL-B’s Frazer led all scorers with 23. LaDuke finished with 13 and Seeyle chipped in with 12.
On their late offensive spark, Buffetta had to give his team credit for two very important things: stepping up on defense and making the extra pass on offense.
“I think it starts on defense. We weren’t playing with enough pace on defense for quite some time and we weren’t pressuring the ball enough. We let them dictate play and that slowed us down. We didn’t have any energy and urgency and once we found those, we started getting the ball back and scoring.
“On all of those threes we made late in the game, I’m pretty sure on every single one it came down to just making the extra pass. We have enough players on this team that we know what that extra pass can do. If we get the open shot like that, a lot of our girls can make it. It was nice to see that good ball movement for a few minutes and that was what proved to be the difference in the game today.”
Completing a stretch of three games in five days, the Rangers are now 2-1 and Buffetta says the team has learned a lot in a quick manner.
“There’s no doubt conditioning comes into play. These girls had 4-5 weeks off and then suddenly had to come in and practice for 10 days before playing a lot of games really fast. We know now that we need to pick up the energy level a bit because that cost us a game over the weekend with Proctor. The good thing is that playing three games in five days is probably a good way to get some conditioning in and learn what we have to fix.”
The Rangers are scheduled to host Deer River on Thursday, but the MI-B High School is holding COVID-19 vaccinations that day, meaning it’s likely that the game will be moved to a different location. The Mesabi Tribune will provide updates to the timing and location of Thursday’s game as they become available.
CLB 31 33 -- 64
MIB 31 43 -- 74
Cass Lake-Bena: Mya Reyes 3, Taryn Frazer 23, Krisalyn Seeyle 12, Kailee Fineday 5, Gabby Fineday 8, Amira LaDuke 13; Three pointers: Frazer 3, K. Fineday 1, G. Fineday 2; Free throws: 10-17; Total fouls: 24; Fouled out: K. Fineday.
Mountain Iron-Buhl: Jacie Kvas 7, Hali Savela 9, Jordan Zubich 17, Sage Ganyo 17, Ava Butler 16, Lauren Maki 8; Three pointers: Zubich 4, Ganyo 3, Butler 1, Maki 1; Free throws: 21-32; Total fouls: 13; Fouled out: none.
Littlefork-Big Falls 31
At Eveleth, Elli Jankila poured in 45 points, including 29 in the first half, to help lead the Golden Bears to a 89-31 win over visiting Littlefork-Big Falls.
Eveleth-Gilbert also got 22 points from Morgan Marks, including a pair of three-pointers.
The Golden Bears used a team effort to take a 58-9 halftime lead and ultimately earn their first win of the year.
The Vikings were paced by Destiny Piekarski with 27 points.
Eveleth-Gilbert (1-1) plays at North Woods Thursday.
LBF 9 22 -- 31
Eveleth-Gilbert 58 31 -- 89
LBF: Kora Gustafson 2, Destiny Piekarski 27, Destiny Zaren 2. 3-pointers: Piekarski 4. Free throws: 1-1. Total fouls: 8. Fouled out: None.
EG: Anna Westby 5, Lydia Delich 6, Morgan Marks 22, Elli Jankila 45, Hanna Beldo 1, Cadyn Krmpotich 8, Allie Bittmann 2, 3-pointers: Westby 1, Marks 2. Free throws: 2-7. Total fouls: 6. Fouled out: None.
Mesabi East 36
At Aurora, the Giants held a 19-18 lead at the half but couldn’t hold on as Esko came back to pick up a 48-36 victory Monday.
Hannah Hannuksela led Mesabi East with 16 points.
Head coach Chris Whiting said his club came up short in its second half shooting. The Giants also had trouble stopping post player Brenna Stark (14 points) and allowed a lot of second half free throws to the Eskomos.
Overall, Whiting was pleased with his team’s defense and said it kept the Giants in the game.
Mesabi East (0-2) plays at International Falls on Thursday.
Esko 18 30 -- 48
M. East 19 17 -- 36
E: Jayden Karppinen 11, Aila Gabel 5, Sarah Wakemaker 14, Mallory Sunnarborg 4, Brenna Stark 14,. 3-pointers: Karppinen 1, Gabel 1, Wagemaker 1. Free throws: 15-27. Total fouls: 15. Fouled out: Sunnarborg.
ME: Aaliyah Sahr 4, Alexa Fossell 3, Hannah Hannuksela 16, Kora Forsline 6, Stevie Hakala 5, Elli Theel 2. 3-pointers: Fossell 1, Hannuksela 1, Hakala 1, Free throws 7-11. Total fouls: 20. Fouled out: Kailey Fossell.
International Falls 50,
North Woods 24
At Cook, International Falls’ Chloe Sullivan poured in 22 points to lead the Broncos past North Woods Monday night, 50-24.
Sullivan was aided by teammate Maddie Lowe with nine points. Brianna Whiteman, Madi Dantes and Hannah Kinsey each led for the Grizzlies with six points apiece.
IF 19 31 — 50
NW 10 14 — 24
International Falls: Lola Valenzuela 2, Gracie Swenson 7, Izzy Valenzeula 5, Maddie Lowe 9, Chloe Sullivan 22, Olivia Thostenson 2; Three pointers: I. Valenzuela 1, Sullivan 1; Free throws: 4-20; Total fouls: 20; Fouled out: none.
North Woods: Brianna Whiteman 6, Madi Dantes 6, Hannah Kinsey 6, Hannah Cheney 4, Aleesia Geshick 2; Three pointers: Whiteman 1; Free throws: 6-17; Total fouls: 14; Fouled out: none.