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Copper Kings rout Iron Mountain, 78-36

Calumet’s Marybeth Halonen (24) leads a fastbreak against Iron Mountain on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021, in Iron Mountain, Mich. (Dennis Mansfield/Iron Mountain Daily News)

IRON MOUNTAIN — It’s the Calumet way.

For years, the Copper Kings girls basketball team has employed a style of basketball that is extraordinarily difficult to play against and immensely successful. Coach Matt Leho’s team uses a 2-2-1 fullcourt press with quick, aggressive and fiesty players. And once they turn a team over, the Copper Kings transition into their offense at breakneck speed, often driving for one layup after another.

This style was on display again at Iron Mountain High School on Thursday when the Copper Kings overwhelmed the Mountaineers in the first quarter en route to a 78-36 victory on opening night for both teams.

Calumet forced 16 turnovers in the first quarter and held IM to just one point in taking a 19-point lead after the opening eight minutes. The Mountaineers never got closer than 15 the rest of the way.

“It’s a mentality, more than anything,” Laho said of his team’s style. “So if you can get them to get the right mentality, then coaching it becomes easy.”

It’s certainly not easy on the receiving end, however.

“Oh goodness,” IM coach Karen Ellis said. “We knew the press that they were going to run. We’ve been running a pressbreak that worked the rest of the game, but in that first quarter I think the nerves just got the best of us and we just had way too many turnovers to be competitive at this level.”

The Mountaineers got a bit of a spark offensively from senior Annslee Runsat in the second quarter when she sank 5 of 6 from the free throw line and hit a jumper that sliced her team’s deficit to 26-11 with 2:10 to play before halftime.

But Calumet answered with a score in the post from Helen Beiring, a driving bucket from Marybeth Halonen and a layin by Caitlyn Strom to take a 34-13 lead into the break.

The Copper Kings placed four players in double figures with sophomore Laina Kariniemi leading the way with 17 points.

Laho said the loss of graduated all-stater Elli Djerf has opened up opportunities for other players.

“I think you saw tonight, that scoring-wise we have more depth than we had last year,” he added. “I think we can get more points from different positions and some of our secondary players can contribute more.”

On the opposite side, the Mountaineers, who played without 6-foot junior Anja Kleiman, showed some glimpses of having a decent outside-inside attack with Runsat leading the way with 13 points while Ellison Powell and Emma Ellis buried two 3-pointers and Ashlyn Bal hit one.

“We just have to be patient on offense and make sure we’re taking good shots instead of forcing them,” Coach Ellis said.

Calumet JV won 61-29.

CHS 20 14 23 21 — 78

IMHS 1 12 12 11 — 36

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