Ontonagon edges Wakefield-Marenisco

Jason Juno/Daily Globe Ontonagon's Fahren Kolpack, left, shoots over Wakefield-Marenisco's Darienne Kopri (4) during Tuesday's Copper Mountain Conference game at Wakefield.

WAKEFIELD — It wasn’t a work of art, but Ontonagon will certainly take its 40-36 Copper Mountain Conference victory over Wakefield-Marenisco Tuesday night.

The inexperienced Gladiators improved to 2-0 to build some confidence to start the season. W-M was without their only center, Rachel Obradovich, due to injury.

The game was exciting as it featured 11 lead changes. But it wasn’t clean as Ontonagon committed 26 turnovers and W-M gave it up 24 times as both teams struggled against the other’s press.

“Just too excited,” Ontonagon coach Dick Franti said. “Our inexperience showed. We missed layups, turned it over numerous times, sometimes without even being pressured. We were just too excited and took off running with the ball. But both teams were into it, they were working hard. Just the smoothness wasn’t there and the calmness wasn’t there, including coach Franti. He wasn’t calm all the time either.”

The Cardinals missed Obradovich’s size.

“We had some young girls on the floor,” W-M coach Bruce Mahler said. “She plays big on the inside, so that would have changed some things. She also plays very well in our press.”

Ten of the lead changes came in a back-and-forth first half.

The Cardinals went on a 7-3 run to end the first half and take a 26-21 lead into halftime. W-M took a 26-19 lead, but a bucket by Kinsey Weisinger got the deficit to five going into halftime.

Saundra Libertoski had 12 of her game-high 18 points in the first half for W-M.

“Saundra plays by instinct,” Mahler said. “Saundra is one of those players that seems to be in the right place at the right time. She played very well.”

She completed another transition layup to start the second half and W-M led by seven points again, 28-21. But those were the only points Ontonagon scored in the third quarter. Ontonagon scored the next 10 and led 31-28 going into the fourth.

Isabelle Lutz went on a 8-0 run by herself. A 3-pointer put Ontonagon ahead 29-28 with 4:04 left in the third quarter, a lead they didn’t give up. Her transition layup made it 31-28. Her 3 to start the fourth quarter scoring made it 34-28.

“I think Isabelle handled the ball pretty well and that was huge for us,” Franti said.

Ontonagon’s Taylor Saari broke her run with a layup on the break. W-M finally ended its long scoring drought when Libertoski made a basket. In all, it was a 15 straight points for the Gladiators spanning nearly all of the third and almost half the fourth.

W-M got it down to four, 36-32, on a layup by Darienne Korpi (10 points). Later, Ontonagon’s Holly Wardynski got a steal on top and turned into an easy layup on the other end for a 38-32 advantage with 1:29 left.

W-M got it to four once more on a Korpi shot, but couldn’t take advantage of Ontonagon’s continued carelessness with the ball as Korpi missed a pair of 3s that would have made things interesting. Fahren Klopack made two free throws with 15.5 seconds left between the triple attempts for a 40-34 lead.

The teams didn’t play any differently down the stretch when Ontonagon should have slowed it down.

“I don’t think anyone ever really settled down to the point they had control of themselves or their emotions, which makes for an exciting game but not a pretty game,” Franti said.

The Cardinals missed too many shots and struggled with the Ontonagon press.

“Initially they seemed to get a little flustered, which they shouldn’t have been because we can break that press and they did,” Mahler said. “We might make a good pass but then throw the ball away. Some of that is young, we have some young people, but we’ll get better.”

For Ontonagon, they’re happy with the start.

“We’re going to head now against Baraga, Lake Linden and Hancock, things are going to get tougher a lot quicker,” Franti said. “Hopefully we learned and calmed down a little bit. If you you’re going to play like that against experienced teams, it’s going to be real bad.”

Holly Wardynski and Isabelle Lutz both had 10 points to lead Ontonagon. Franti said Kolpack rebounded well.

Ontonagon (2-0, 2-0) hosts Baraga Friday night. W-M (1-2, 1-1) hosts Watersmeet Friday night.

Ontonagon 13 8 10 9 – 40

W-M 14 12 2 8 – 36

Ontonagon – Kinsey Weisinger 8, Kaili Weiner 2, Kessy Domitrovich 4, Fahren Kolpack 6, Holly Wardynski 10, Isabelle Lutz 10. FTs: 6-12. Fouls: 14. Fouled out: None. 3-pointers: Lutz 2.

W-M – Darienne Korpi 10, Makayla Mahler 2, Saundra Libertoski 18, Alexa Jilek 4, Melissa Wanink 2. FTs: 6-10. Fouls: 14. Fouled out: None. 3-pointers: None.