By RON DEUTER
KINGSFORD - With a crisp snap of the net, Courtney Qualley and the Kingsford Flivvers ended Marquette's perfect season.
Theresa Proudfit/The Daily News Photo
Kingsford’s Maria Wiltzius (32) battles for a rebound with Marquette’s Kirsten Iwanski (44) late in Friday’s Great Northern Conference game. Wiltzius scored six points and had five rebounds.
Sinking a game-winning free throw with two-tenths of a second remaining, Qualley lifted Kingsford to a stunning 48-47 upset victory over the No. 1 Redettes Friday in Great Northern Conference girls basketball.
"I've never felt so much pressure in my life," the Flivver junior said. "I just knew I had to make it. I struggled throughout the whole game, and I just knew that nothing mattered except this right now."
Qualley's moment at the line came following a timeout called by Marquette coach Ben Smith in an attempt to ice the shooter. She responded by releasing a high-arcing shot and dropping a no-doubter straight through the net.
Purposely missing the second shot, Marquette had only enough time for a desperation heave from the backcourt which fell way short.
Qualley was immediately mobbed by her teammates in celebration.
"I just can't say enough about this effort tonight," Flivvers head coach Mike Cross said. "They hung in there and played tough against a really good team. I'm just so proud."
The movie-script ending was set up when Marquette's Elizabeth Kurin tied the game with 13.3 seconds to play with a incredible reverse lay-up off a feed from Hunter Viitala. Kingsford inbounded under the basket and worked up the floor for a final shot.
As the Flivvers tried to set up in the halfcourt, Marquette's pressure stiffened. The ball was briefly knocked loose in the right corner. As Qualley battled to maintain control, Marquette's Morgan Leadbetter tried to make a play for the ball. In the rush, she unintentionally tripped Qualley, and a foul was called.
Smith said the final sequence didn't tell the full story of the game.
"We gave up a 19-point first quarter. That's not good enough," he said. "We missed 13 free throws tonight. That's not what you need to do to win basketball games.
"Looking at a play or two down the stretch is crazy. There were a number of plays early and throughout the game. Credit Kingsford. They played hard the whole way and we knew they would."
A tight battle the entire second half, Marquette grabbed a 45-43 lead when Kurin grabbed a missed Redette free throw and put it back in with 1:45 to play. Amber Larson, the game's leading scorer with 17 points, tied things right back with a drive and short jumper that she hit as she fell hard to the floor.
The game remained tied 45-45 as the clock dipped below a minute to play. Qualley was then fouled with 28.8 to go. She nailed both free throws to give the lead back to Kingsford. But then Kurin worked her magic under the basket thanks to the perfect feed from Viitala.
Coach Cross credited his defense for keeping the game close throughout.
"To hold No. 1 Marquette to 47 points was awesome," he said. "That was the big thing. The intensity level, the heart, that's what we needed all year."
Marquette struggled to handle Kingsford's non-stop pressure all game, committing 22 turnovers in the game. Kingsford might have been able to build a lead on that stat alone, but the Flivvers had 25 turnovers of their own.
"We struggled with the turnovers," Cross said. "I'm just proud of the fact that we were able to hang in there and be aggressive at the end."
Viitala and Destiny Beckwith led Marquette (16-1, 6-1) with 13 points each. But the Redettes missed 6-of-10 from the foul line in the final frame.
"It's one of those things, the bullseye has been on us all year," Smith said. "We've had games where we didn't play well and came out with victories. On any given night you have to be ready to go. You don't just show up and win. When the game comes down to a possession or two, the ball bounces your way or it doesn't. The calls go your way or they don't. They made a free throw with .2 seconds to go.
"Kingsford put one on Esky the other night. They battled Crystal Falls. I don't think we came in here thinking they weren't going to be good. We just couldn't finish enough plays. We need to regroup and look at what we did properly and what we need to do differently."
Marquette, with 10 turnovers in the first quarter, fell behind 19-12. Kingsford was down 10-8 when Sammy Lindeman banked home a three from up top. Annika Erickson and Jaelyn Jennings each followed with triples before the quarter ended.
Kingsford expanded its lead to 25-14 in the second quarter before Beckwith buried a three to ignite Marquette on a 13-2 spurt. Beckwith added a second triple to tie the score 27-27. Kingsford went into the break with a two-point edge, but once the third quarter got going, the game was never separated by more than three points the rest of the way.
Marquette finished 11-for-23 at the line, while Kingsford was 10-of-16. While Qualley's free throw was the most memorable, it was Larson doing the work at the line throughout the night, collecting seven points at the stripe. She also led Kingsford with eight boards.
"Amber Larson, this is how she plays now," Cross said. "Whatever it is, this is how she plays. She is a force now. She's been real solid. give her credit. She worked her tail off in the summer and now she is reaping the benefits."
Marquette controlled the jayvee game 60-17, while Kingsford freshmen earned a 59-47 victory.
Kingsford (7-8, 2-4) hosts Gladstone Tuesday.
Marquette12 16 11 8 - 47
Kingsford19 11 10 8 - 48
MARQUETTE: Viitala 13, Huebner 1, Beckwith 13, Kurin 8, Connon 4, Iwanski 6, Storm 2. FT: 11-23. F: 15.
KINGSFORD: Jennings 3, Qualley 7, Tresedder 2, Larson 17, Wiltzius 6, Erickson 5, Lindeman 3, Walters 5. FT: 10-17. F: 20.
FG shooting - M: 16-54 (3-pt: 4-20); K: 17-43 (3-pt: 4-14). 3-pt FGs - M: Beckwith (3), Viitala; K: Jennings, Erickson, Lindeman, Walters. Rebounding - M: 40 (Beckwith 8, Kurin 8, Connon 8); K: 35 (Larson 8).