Ontonagon shuts down W-M, wins 40-37

Ontonagon's Izabelle Lutz (24) goes in for a layup Thursday night at Wakefield. (Jason Juno/Daily Globe (Ironwood))

WAKEFIELD — Ontonagon scored the final six points of the game to come back to beat ice-cold Wakefield-Marenisco 40-37 Thursday night.

The Gladiators actually led most of the game, but W-M took a three-point lead with three minutes to go before Ontonagon was able to rally and escape with a Copper Mountain Conference win.

For the Cardinals, it felt like an opportunity lost. They outrebounded Ontonagon and forced more turnovers. But it was just a poor shooting night for them. They took 71 field goals and 21 free throws, but made just 13 of 71 (18.3 percent) and 7 of 21 (33.3 percent) at the foul line. It ended a two-game winning streak for W-M.

“The girls played well, the girls played hard,” W-M coach Bruce Mahler said. “I told them pick their heads up, they played a good game. We need to hit our shots, that’s all. 

“We played well this week. We beat Lake Linden-Hubbell, we beat Ironwood, we played well in this game, so hopefully that’ll carry on Monday (at Bessemer).”

The Cardinals’ Saundra Libertoski tied it at 34-34 with a basket and hit one of two at the line halfway through the fourth to give W-M its first lead since it was 1-0. Alexa Jilek went to the line and made two, giving W-M a 37-34 lead with 3:10 left.

But those were the only free throws W-M made in the fourth quarter, the team went 3 of 11 with three of the misses coming with that 37-34 advantage.

Ontonagon’s Jenny Labyak came up big when things still looked bleak for the Gladiators, who had scored just four points in the fourth up to that point.

She got a transition layup to pull the Glads within 37-36. Ontonagon forced a turnover and she connected on a 3 from the wing to put Ontonagon back in front, 39-37, with 1:20 left.

“That was huge because up to that point we couldn’t throw it in the ocean when we were standing on the shore,” Ontonagon coach Dick Franti said.

W-M had more chances, missing two at the line while still trailing by two, and missing a couple of good looks in the final minute.

Ontonagon overcame issues with scoring (at times), rebounding and turnovers to win on the road.

“There’s two things with us. We do have those scoring droughts, sometimes they’re a whole quarter,” Franti said. “I thought defensively we struggled a little bit, too, with them. Our matchups weren’t good. We tried going man, we had some bad matchups. Give them credit, they played well and I think, we’re fortunate, very happy to have won.”

W-M stepped up its defense after the first quarter to make things interesting down the stretch.

“We outplayed them in the second half,” Mahler said. “They beat us in the first quarter and that was the difference.

Labyak led Ontonagon with 11 points, including the biggest two buckets of the game to put Ontonagon back in front.

“She had struggled in the first half and I think she had sat down for quite awhile in the third and had a talk with herself and then was determined to make a positive effort and she did,” Franti said. “Thank God.”

Izabelle Lutz had 10 points for Ontonagon, including two first-quarter 3s that gave the Gladiators an early lead.

“They hit a few shots from the top of the key in the first quarter,” Mahler said. “Lutz had two 3-pointers in the first quarter and she had one the rest of the game. We stepped up and took that away. Once we took that away, we turned the game around.”

Libertoski led W-M with 12 points. Jilek had 10.

“That’s a much better team than I saw in December, let me tell you,” Franti said of the Cardinals.

W-M (4-9, 3-6) goes to Bessemer Monday night. Ontonagon (7-5, 7-2) hosts Republic-Michigamme Monday night.

– – –

Ontonagon 10 11 9 10 — 40

W-M 4 11 13 9 — 37

Ontonagon – Kinsey Weisinger 5, Ella Menigoz 2, Jenny Labyak 11, Izabelle Lutz 10, Fahren Kolpack 5, Holly Wardynski 3, MacKenzie Fredrickson 4. FTs: 7-14. Fouls: 14. Fouled out: None. 3-pointers: Lutz 3, Labyak 1, Weisinger 1.

W-M – Ally Yon 6, Carlee Yon 2, Hailey Hautala 6, Saundra Libertoski 12, Alexa Jilek 10, Melissa Wanink 1. FTs: 7-21. Fouls: 14. Fouled out: None. 3-pointers: A. Yon 2, Hautala 2.

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