BARAGA - The "big three" of the L'Anse Purple Hornets proved to be too big of an obstacle for the Baraga Vikings to overcome Friday night.
Madi Swanson, Valerie Rajala and Kelsey Ross combined to pour in 61 points in a 66-49 LHS victory in the latest "Battle of the Bay."
"She (Swanson) is just one of those players who seems to score points ... even when it looks like she isn't," Baraga coach Mariah Dunham said afterward. "She just finds a way to score."
Valerie Rajala of L'Anse goes to the hoop Friday against Baraga. Rajala notched 16 points and 16 rebounds in her team's 66-49 win in Baraga. (Paul Peterson photo)
Swanson, a junior guard, filled the stat sheet with a game-high 32 points, five steals and four assists.
But Rajala was steady with 16 points and a game-best 16 rebounds. Ross pumped in 13 points, hitting three triples.
Hornets' coach Scott Lloyd said his dynamic trio accomplished a lot, but other players made key contributions as well.
L'Anse 17 16 15 18 - 66
Baraga 9 15 7 18 - 49
L'Anse - Madi Swanson 32, Kayla LaBerge 1, Valerie Rajala 16, Kelsey Ross 13, Abby Marinich 4. FT: 15-24; Rebounds: 29 (Rajala 16); Fouls: 12; Fouled out: Larson; 3-point field goals: Ross 3, Swanson 2.
Baraga - Jenna Heikkinen 16, Brittany Nieskes 6, Taylor Swanson 2, Rebecca Larson 16, Katie Schjoth 4, Shannon Fish 5. FT: 4-7; Rebounds: 39 (Larson 14); Fouls: 16; Fouled out: none; 3-point field goals: Heikkinen 4, Larson 4.
"Our team defense was pretty good, and I thought Kelly Larson did a nice job on Brittany Nieskes. It isn't just our three big players who make a difference," Lloyd noted.
Playing before a big crowd, the Vikings managed to make it an entertaining game for a half.
A last-second hoop by Nieskes reduced the L'Anse lead to 33-24 heading into intermission.
"I thought we had some momentum going into the locker room at the half," Dunham commented. "But L'Anse came out in the third quarter and took it right away."
Swanson, who netted 20 points in the opening half, added eight more in the third frame as LHS grabbed a 48-31 spread at quarter's end.
Rajala, who was big under the hoop, scored 11 points over the final two periods. She made 10-of-13 free throws.
Baraga managed to stick around behind the three-point shooting of Jenna Heikkinen and Rebecca Larson, but couldn't make any inroads into the deficit.
Lloyd was somewhat concerned about the rebounding advantage (39-29) that Baraga managed.
"They (Vikings) did a good job of getting second and third shots," he said. "And with our lack of size, that's been a concern. But we'll work around it."
Now 6-0 on the season, the Purple Gang will face a big game at Calumet next week.
"That's a big game in the conference. Calumet is very tall and will present a stiff challenge," Lloyd said.
At 1-3, Baraga was paced by 16 points apiece from Heikkinen and Larson. Both hit four treys. Larson also grabbed 14 rebounds in playing what her coach described as "a nice all-around game."
Baraga faces Ewen-Trout Creek in its next game Monday.