By RON DEUTER
KINGSFORD - Kingsford's girls basketball team, with a defensive performance worthy of comparison to the Flivvers' 2010 state semifinalist squad, buried Menominee before halftime and coasted to a 51-20 Class B District 64 title here Wednesday evening.
Ron Deuter/The Daily News Photos
Kingsford’s girls basketball team celebrates after receiving the district trophy from head coach Mike Cross (right) Wednesday evening.
"It's a combination of 20 games of doing this over and over," Flivvers head coach Mike Cross said. "We're getting the point now where we are finally understanding what we are doing. What you're seeing right now is a team that, defensively, understands exactly what we're trying to do."
Just getting up court against the Flivvers pressure was such a struggle for the Maroons that it led to a hurried, almost panicked approach on offense, resulting in erratic shots and very few second chances.
"We knew coming out of the gate they were going to be intense and pressure us," Menominee head coach Lucas Chouinard said, his team outboarded 34-21. "We didn't match their intensity. We didn't execute like we wanted to. We took way too many quick shots.
"When we're at our best, we swing the ball around and get the ball to our bigs. We didn't get it to our bigs enough."
Menominee scored the first basket of the second quarter to get within five points of the lead but didn't add another point until 5:33 to play in the third quarter. Meanwhile, the Flivvers went for 21 unanswered points during that span, kicked off by three straight 3-pointers.
Courtney Qualley, Hannah Tresedder and Annika Erickson all connected from deep midway through the second frame, basically putting the game out of reach for good.
"Shooting is contagious," Cross said. "We have some kids who have stepped up their game, and it doesn't hurt to have a couple kids from the jayvee team who have come on like an Erickson or a (Maria) Wiltzius. They come in and make some big shots, and that's contagious, as others also start hitting shots. It's really kind of impressive."
After snapping eight treys in their semifinal win Monday, the Flivvers drilled another six against the Maroons. Erickson led with two for her six points in the game. Sam Fleming and Wiltzius hit others.
Erickson's second trey followed by a Wiltzius jumper near the end of the third frame pushed Kingsford's lead to 30. With the starters on the bench, Kelsey Bennett and Lauren Smith got the Flivvers off to a 6-1 start in the fourth and their biggest lead of the game at 51-16.
"That's the best game we've played all year," Cross said. "It's a full game. We've been wondering when we're going to play a full four quarters, and I thought tonight we did."
Carlee Benzie, the ring-leader again on defense with five steals, led Kingsford with 10 points. Andrea Roell added seven and a team-best six rebounds. Amber Larson scored six points.
"Carlee had done an outstanding job all year," Cross said. "I can't say enough about how much she worked at her game, and she really has put this team on her back. She really is just an outstanding leader. And it's not just her. Our three seniors, every kid on this team looks up to them. Our seniors are a tough bunch."
Paige Owens had seven points for the Maroons, while Amanda Pedersen was checked to six.
"Another key point was ball security," Chouinard said. "We didn't secure the ball well the entire game. That's what Kingsford does. They overwhelm you with their speed and pressure, and we really collapsed against their pressure."
"This performance tonight reminds of our teams a few years back," Cross said. "And to be comparable to those teams is nice. We'll see what happens, but they sure bring it."
Kingsford (18-4) advances to regional play in Cadillac where they will face the winner of a Friday district final between Kalkaska (17-3) or Ogemaw Heights (4-17) on Tuesday, March 5, at 7:30 p.m. (Eastern).
"You hear people say all the time the regular season is just a warm up for the playoffs," Cross said. "In basketball it really is. It's one thing to be in the playoffs and another to be playing well.
"We got a lot of work ahead of us, but you certainly feel good about where you're at."
Menominee 8 2 5 5 - 20
Kingsford 15 15 15 6 - 51
MENOMINEE: Owens 7, Pedersen 6, Woods 2, Roman 2, Anderla 2, Barley 1. FT: 1-8. F: 8.
KINGSFORD: Benzie 10, Roell 7, Erickson 6, Larson 6, Tresedder 5, Wiltzius 5, Smith 4, Fleming 3, Qualley 3, Bennett 2. FT: 3-6. F: 8.
FG shooting - M: 9-38; K: 17-51. 3-pt FGs - M: Owens; K: Erickson (2), Fleming, Tresedder, Wiltzius, Qualley. Rebounding - M: 21 (Pedersen 6); K: 34 (Roell 6).