Miners edge Bulldogs in 2 OT, 47-44

The Hancock bench cheers on their teammates as their Division 3 District 65 championship game against Negaunee heads into a second overtime on Friday at the Hancock Gym. (Eddie O’Neill/Daily Mining Gazette)

HANCOCK — Friday night’s Division 3 District 65 girls basketball championship game had all the ups and downs of one’s favorite roller coaster ride. The back-and-forth battle between the Negaunee Miners and the Hancock Bulldogs took two overtimes before the trophy could be raised.

At the end of it all, the Miners were the ones who emerged, celebrating a 47-44 district win.

“This one was an instant classic,” said Miners coach Mike O’Donnell. “It was a defensive chess game till the end.”

While the Bulldogs (19-2) had beaten the Miners earlier in the season, it was in December, when things were different and didn’t mean much according to Bulldogs coach Ward Helakoski.

“We were both very different teams back then,” he said. “Hats off to Negaunee. They are a very good team that played well, and we didn’t.”

The opening quarter was like a chess match as each possession was calculated and deliberate. The Bulldogs led after the first eight minutes 9-7. The second was much the same with the teams headed to the locker room with an 18-16 Bulldogs’ lead at half.

“I told the girls that I considered that first half a win,” said O’Donnell. “We were still very much in this one, and we just needed to step up our game in the second half.”

The Miners heeded the call as they allowed the Bulldogs just two points while they scored 12 and took a 28-20 lead into the final eight minutes.

“They came on strong, and we were a little timid in that second half,” said Helakoski. “We weren’t playing naturally. We missed way too many layup shots and free throws.”

The Bulldogs were a dismal 4-19 from the charity strip (21%).

However, they were able to bounce back in the fourth and tie it at 30 with 3:15 left. The Miners regained the lead at 35-33 with less than a minute to go in the game.

The Bulldogs’ season was on the line and then came the dramatics.

With just seconds left, Hancock had the ball on an in-bound play. They needed three and they got it with a desperation shot from far beyond the arc by Kaisa Salani. She tied it at 36 and was mobbed by her teammates after forcing overtime.

“I was worried when she (Salani) hit that one,” said O’Donnell. “My girls’ faces were flush and deflated. But, I told them to keep their composure; we are just starting over, and they did.”

The first overtime, which was four minutes long, ended in both teams scoring just four points (40-40) and force another extra session.

In the second overtime, the Miners scored seven and Hancock squad just four.

“That composure is what won it for us,” O’Donnell said. “They stayed it with it until the end.

Despite the loss, Helakoski had nothing but accolades for his girls, who lost just one game during the regular season.

“I told them that there is nothing to be ashamed of,” he said. “Yes, this loss hurts, but look at all we accomplished this season. In the end, I am very, very proud of them.”


NHS 7 9 12 8 4 7 – 47

HCH 9 9 2 16 4 4 – 44

NHS – Johnson 11, Pekrul 6, Mason 14, Anderson 2, Nardi 9, Atkins 5.

HCH – Aho 5, Pietila 2, Brey 3, Kero 5, Salani 12, Hebert 17.


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