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Copper Kings fall to Kent City in state semifinal, 59-53

Calumet’s Elli Djerf, center, puts up a shot against Kent City during a MHSAA Division 3 state semifinal on Wednesday, April 7, 2021, in East Lansing, Mich. (Hockey Weekly Actions Photos/MHSAA)

EAST LANSING — Despite a game high 22 points from senior guard Eli Djerf, Calumet came up short in a 59-53 loss to Kent City in the MHSAA Division 3 state semifinal Wednesday at the Breslin Center.

The Eagles (21-0) had four players score in double figures, led by senior Jenna Harrison with 15 points. Madelyn Geers netted 14 points, while the Bowers sisters Kezie and Lexie combined for 23 points.

“I think in some ways, the girls made some mistakes today that we weren’t accustomed to them doing, and I think that had to do with nervousness,” said Calumet head coach Matt Laho. “The girls knew what they needed to be doing, they just weren’t doing it well, and it kinda caught up with us.” 

Kent City plays Grass Lake at 3 p.m. Friday in the Division 3 state championship. Grass Lake advanced to the title game due to a forfeit by Hemlock, who opted out of the rest of the tournament.

With 19 of Kent City’s 20 games being blowout wins, Laho thought his team played well against another competitive team.

“Our defense was good all day, there were just certain times of the game, where they made some key plays that we didn’t,” Laho said.

As the game began, both teams got off to sluggish starts, with Lizzie Torola getting the Copper Kings (20-1) on the scoreboard first making the second of two free throws at the 5:47 mark in the first quarter. 29 seconds later, the Eagles got on the scoreboard and the remainder of the stanza was back and forth. 

Right from the get go, Calumet used their customary swarming ball pressure with Jana Loukus and Djerf swarming the ball from the inbounds line, across the mid court stripe. The Copper Kings press did give Kent City some trouble handling the basketball at first, but they were able to manage it the rest of the first half and throughout the game when Calumet used it. 

Kent City came out in a full court man-to-man defense to start the game. It was effective in certain aspects, but their press was also effective once they began to use it later in the basketball game.  

“We wanted to get a feel of the game, and let the girls get the feel of the game and be comfortable instead of pressing right away,” said Eagles head coach Scott Carlson. “We had the same feeling as Calumet did, today is a different environment for both of us, a different type game.” 

One aspect that made a difference in the game, was the rebounding differential. Kent City had multiple second- and third-chance shots, especially in the first half. 

“We got out rebounded at key times, and that didn’t help either,” Laho said. 

Early in the second quarter, Calumet’s defensive intensity increased, and they were able to convert a couple scoring opportunities during that time frame, taking a 15-10 lead at the 5:16 mark, prompting Carlson to call a timeout. 

A play of note in the latter part of the second quarter, was Alexis Strom grabbed a rebound and took it the length of the court for a layup. 

The Eagles’ ensuing possessions after Strom’s play were two 3-pointers for a 24-19 lead. Kent City had slowed down the tempo of their offense a tad and were making an extra pass or two in their half court sets to get the best look. 

Calumet came out of the locker room at halftime trailing by two points, and quickly took a 28-24 lead, scoring on three straight possessions with the first two minutes of the stanza. The last two of the six points came off of a steal and layup from Djerf. 

As the third quarter became a game of scoring runs, Kent City poured in eight points on their next three possessions, to retake the lead at 32-28. 

Also in the third quarter, Kent City’s halfcourt to three-quarter court pressure, was causing the Copper Kings trouble, as they began turning the ball over. 

The Eagles were able to increase their lead to eight points by the end of the third stanza. A lead that they maintained throughout the final quarter, despite Calumet’s comeback attempt. 

CHS 7 15 19 12 — 53

KCHS 7 17 25 10 — 59

CALUMET (53): Loukus 3, Halonen 11, Djerf 22, Strom 8, Torolo 5, Giachino 4. FT: 8-10, F: 15. Fouled Out: Strom. 3-point FG: Djerf 3, Halonen, Loukus. Rebounds: 28, Djerf 9, Strom 7. FG: 20-50. Assists: 7.

KENT CITY (59): L. Bowers 10, Harrison 15, K. Bowers 13, E. Geers 7, M. Geers 14. FT: 11-17. F: 8. 3-point FG: L. Bowers 3, Harrison 3, K. Bowers, M. Geers. Rebounds: 35, E. Geers 9. FG: 20-47. Assists: 16.

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