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Peterson: Finlandia women get lift from locals

The Finlandia University women’s basketball team is enjoying one of its better seasons in quite awhile.

With a nine-game winning streak — and overall 14-11 record this winter — coach Mariah Dunham’s team goes into the AACA tournament this weekend as the number two seed.

You have to go all the way back to the 2003-2004 campaign to find a Lions squad as successful as this year’s edition.

That Finlandia team of 16 years ago was led by local products Jill Koski or Baraga and Brooke Sirard of L’Anse.

Koski, a great all around player, ended her career as the all-time leading scorer in FU women’s history.

The 6-foot-2 Sirard played just one season at Finlandia. but she was a force. In her senior season at LHS, she averaged a triple-double in points, rebounds and blocked shots. That’s something that has never been accomplished locally.

Dunham, who played three years at the University and Wisconsin and one at Northern Michigan University, is an intense, no-nonsense kind of coach. She has molded this team the same way.

The 2019-2020 team is led by sophomore center Katie Lundeen, who is a top Player of the Year candidate in the Division III section where the Lions play in.

But like the team of 15 years ago, the Lions are represented by a strong contingent of local players.

Hancock High products Taylor Pertile and Molly Berg have provided scoring and defense in their careers, both being excellent three-point shooters.

Houghton High graduates Harley Froberg and Casana Ryynanen (just a freshman) provide strong work and defense under the hoop, but can also score.

Three Baraga County products, Bailey Froberg of L’Anse, and Carsyn Osterman and Martina Jahfetson

of Baraga are other keys. Froberg is a lights-out three-point shooter, while Osterman has handled the point guard spot most of the season. Jahfetson, a freshman, is still learning the system.

That’s seven local players and that’s something that Dunham is proud to see. Assistant coach Brandi Hainault, who led Chassell High to glory, adds another Copper Country connection.

“This is a good area for high schools girls basketball,l and we’re going to recruit it as best as we can,” Dunham says.

And that’s an excellent formula for success at a small college program.