Baraga locks up Jeffers down stretch for 37-35 victory
PAINESDALE — After spending two years coaching under Keith Willis, one of the biggest takeaways for Tom Goodreau was the hard-nosed defensive mentality Willis instilled in the program. Opponents knew when they played the Baraga Vikings, they were in for a grind-it-out affair that would test their mental fortitude for 32 minutes.
It’s that same identity that Goodreau has attempted to continue in his first year replacing Willis, and it was on display Friday in Jeffers.
Protecting a two-point lead, Baraga held the Jeffers Jets scoreless from the midway point of the fourth quarter to the final buzzer to secure a 37-35 Copper Mountain Conference win. It’s Baraga’s seventh straight victory after an 0-4 start to the season.
Junior Martina Jahfetson scored nine points for the winners, while senior Chelsea Pittsley and junior Erin Kamarainen each scored eight.
“I just told them it all depends if they want it or not,” Goodreau said. “We’re on their court, so shots are going to go in that wouldn’t go in in Baraga, so you have to realize that you have to play tough defense and secure the ball … They really buckled down and I’m proud of them.”
At the 1:15 mark, Jeffers coach Joe Romano called a timeout when his team gained possession. Over the next 1:10, the Jets (5-6, 5-2) looked to score but didn’t get off a shot until a runner from 12 feet out bounced off the backboard. Following a Baraga turnover with 2.8 seconds remaining, the Vikings forced Jeffers into a half-court desperation shot that fell short to earn the win.
“It’s nice having girls that Keith coached from varsity last year because they understand exactly what it takes (on defense),” Goodreau said. “They’re passing it down to the freshmen and sophomores on varsity and really stepping up.”
The inability to score over the final 1:15 was the end of a frustrating night for Jeffers. The Jets shot 13 of 44 (30 percent) and had 16 turnovers against Baraga’s 2-3 zone. On the Jets’ second-to-last possession, members of the crowd would occasionally yell out, “Shoot,” as the Jets passed up multiple looks at the basket.
“We had so many looks in the last two minutes and no one wanted to shoot the ball,” Romano said. “That tells me that you’re not prepared or you don’t have confidence to play the game. So if I have kids on the bench that I know will shoot, then that’s what I got to do. I got to go to those kids.
“I’m the fairest guy in Jeffers High School, and you earn your position … I just thought our kids could’ve played a lot better.”
Baraga (7-4, 7-2) was held scoreless over the final 3:40 after senior Chelsea Pittsley converted a 13-foot jumper for the 37-35 lead. Pittsley also converted a 3 before Jeffers’ Cierra Stevens immediately answered with a 3 of her own to tie the game at 35.
Stevens led the Jets with 12 points.
With Jeffers sagging hard in its 2-3 zone, the 3-ball keyed Baraga’s victory. Nine of the Vikings 14 baskets came on 3s as they shot 9 of 27 from deep (33 percent) and were 14 of 43 overall (33 percent).
Baraga’s first six baskets came on 3s, while the Vikings’ first made shot inside the 3-point line didn’t come until a breakaway layup by Kamarainen with 1:38 left in the second that gave the Vikings a 20-16 lead. Kamarainen’s layup capped a 17-2 run after Jeffers opened the game with a 14-3 lead.
The Vikings’ rally started with 3s from Pittlsey, freshman Rylie Koskinen and Jahfetson.
“I could tell in the early going that we were nervous,” Goodreau said of his team’s 1 for 9 start from the field. “Once the nerves got out, they realized they could have it if they went out and took it. It made a big difference.”
After taking a 14-9 lead into the second, Jeffers missed its first 10 shots and finished just 1 of 12 from the field in its four-point second quarter that also saw the team commit five turnovers.
Baraga took a 20-18 lead into halftime.
“We just bypassed our shots and didn’t run our offense,” Romano said. “We practiced for three days on what (Baraga) plays and I scouted them for two games. I had it right down pat.
“We missed eight layups. How do you miss eight layups on the varsity? I’m very frustrated right now, and I have to find answers and I will find answers.”
Next, Jeffers heads to Lake Linden-Hubbell on Monday. Baraga heads to Dollar Bay on the same day.
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Baraga 9 11 10 7 — 37
Jeffers 14 4 10 7 — 35
Baraga — M. Jahfetson 9, Kamarainen 8, Koskinen 6, A. Jahfetson 4, Lindemann 2, Pittsley 8. F: 10; Fouled out: None; Free throws: 0-0; 3-point field goals: M. Jahfetson 3, Kamrainen 2, Koskinen 2, Pittsley 2.
Jeffers — Klemett 5, Stevens 12, Nordstrom 9, Pennala 9. F: 5; Fouled out: None; Free throws: 3-7; 3-point field goals: Stevens 3, Nordstrom, Hillstrom.