EVELETH — A slow-paced first half between the Eveleth-Gilbert and Mesabi East girls’ basketball team left the outcome of their Monday night contest in question.
It was the Giants, however, that upped their game in the second half to pick up the win, 44-29.
Hannah Hannuksela led from the outside while Kora Forsline did work in the paint as the pair led Mesabi East in scoring with 13 points apiece. While not the cleanest win for the Giants, head coach Chris Whiting said the second half was “just enough” for his team to secure the win.
“We found a little something there in the second half,” Whiting said. “Just enough to pull it away. It wasn’t anything spectacular. We had a slow start and then played well for a good part of the first half but then slowed down again at the end.
“That second half we had a little bit more hustle and aggressiveness that we turned into turnovers. The girls began to play a little bit better basketball and we found our groove there at the end.”
The Giants slow start contributed to an early 10-5 Bears lead with E-G senior Cadyn Krmpotich looking strong on the offensive boards.
Krmpotich scored the Bears first two buckets, one on the putback to go up 4-0. Elli Jankila then added two more with a bucket in the paint. Forsline got her night started with a three point play the old fashioned way to make it 7-3.
Krmpotich kept finding herself in the right place at the right time, scoring once more on the putback before Hannuksela answered with a Giants second chance bucket.
Krmpotich found yet another chance in the paint, picking up the offensive board before dumping it in for two to make it 10-5 Golden Bears. Things quickly shifted, however, as the Giants began their first major run of the night, scoring the next 14 points unanswered.
Aaliyah Sahr got the streak started for Mesabi East with a three-pointer to cut the deficit to two. Hannuksela knotted things up with a bucket in the paint and Forsline gave the Giants their first lead of the night on their next trip down with two more in the lane.
Two possessions later, Hannuksela kept fanning the Mesabi East flames, scoring on a short jumper just before Forsline added two more converting on the drive. Ending the run just as it started, Sahr knocked down a three to put Mesabi East up 19-10 late in the first half.
The Bears crawled their way back in as time dwindled down with Lydia Delich scoring on the drive. Later down 20-12, Anna Westby hit an open layup to make it a six-point game and Morgan Marks cut it to three with a long range bomb of her own.
With Marks’ final shot, the Giants held just a small lead going into the break, 20-17.
The second half was all Mesabi East, however, as they outscored the Giants at a 2-1 clip the rest of the way. Hannuksela hit another short bucket in the paint to go up five, but the Bears Amara Wilcox knotted things up with a made three followed by a pair of free throws two possessions later.
Mesabi East slowly began to stretch the lead back out with Hannuksela and Forsline controlling the offense. However the Giants also benefited from the pair leading a strong defensive effort.
Hannuksela found herself playing an aggressive defense. Interrupting passing lanes, going up for rebounds and hustling enough to be almost everywhere on the court, Hannuksela made a point to keep the Bears from scoring.
For the six-footer Forsline, being tasked with another six-footer in Jankila made for a battle down low. The Giants junior, however, never let her make any easy shots, limiting the E-G senior to just five points on the night.
The Giants offense was aided in the late minutes from Stevie Hakala, scoring in the paint as well as from the short corner to help extend the lead. Up 36-26 with four minutes to play, Mesabi East closed things out with four more points from Hannuksela, a steal and a layup from Alexa Fossell and one last bucket from Hakala to come away with the 44-29 win.
Recently coming off of a loss to Virginia on Friday, Whiting was pleased with the way Forsline and Hannuksela played on both sides of the ball in a much different kind of game.
“I think Kora played really well tonight. She was aggressive on both sides and made Jankila work for her points. I was happy with what I saw. Hannah, she was after the ball all night, playing tough defense up and down the court. She worked hard on the switches and didn’t give up any quick buckets. That hard work on defense turned into offense for us in the second half.”
Eveleth-Gilbert (7-5) will travel to Chisholm on Friday.
Taking on Cloquet on Thursday, Whiting hopes the Giants (6-6) can continue to progress their offensive formula over the next two days of practice.
“I’m just hoping we fine tune some things on the offense. It’s not a lot but we’re learning that it’s not all about the speed on offense but about seeing where the open spots on the court are. We’re always looking to make some more passes to help open things up.”
ME 20 24 — 44
EG 17 12 — 29
Mesabi East: Aaliyah Sahr 6, Alexa Fossell 2, Hannah Hannuksela 13, Kora Forsline 13, Stevie Hakala 8, Elli Theel 1, Maiji Hill 1; Three pointers: Sahr 2; Free throws: 8-17; Total fouls: 13; Fouled out: none.
Eveleth-Gilbert: Anna Westby 2, Lydia Delich 4, Amara Wilcox 7, Morgan Marks 3, Elli Jankila 5, Cadyn Krmpotich 8; Three pointers: Wilcox 1, Marks 1; Free throws: 3-9; Total fouls: 15; Fouled out: none.
Mountain Iron-Buhl 88
Littlefork-Big Falls 36
At Littlefork, the Mountain Iron-Buhl boys’ basketball team got a combined 55 points from Asher Zubich and Nikolas Jesch Monday night as they blew out hosting Littlefork-Big Falls, 88-36.
Zubich led with 32 while Jesch added 23 in the win. The Vikings were led by Jacob Pendergast and Nathan Kennedy, both with 10.
Mountain Iron-Buhl (4-6) will travel to Bigfork on Friday.
MIB 52 36 — 88
LBF 29 7 — 36
MI-B: Asher Zubich 32, Cooper Salinas 6, Mason Clines 9, Jeffrey Kayfes 3, Josh Holmes 3, Nikolas Jesch 23, Carlos Hernandez 2, Braxton Negen 3, MiCaden Clines 3, Lukas Madson 2; Three pointers: Zubich 6, Kayfes 1, Jesch 1, Negen 1, Mi. Clines 1; Free throws: 12-19; Total fouls: 15; Fouled out: none.
L-BF: Dale Erickson 4, Jason Boorman 1, Jacob Pendergast 10, Nathan Kennedy 10, Owen Erickson 2, Brayden Maish 7; Three pointers: Kennedy 3; Free throws: 5-13; Total fouls: 17; Fouled out: none.