By BURT ANGELI
NORWAY - The Class C District 95 girls basketball championship has returned to Norway High School.
Theresa Proudfit/the Daily News Photo
Norway’s Jordan Kraemer shoots as Iron Mountain’s Katie Brule (32) and Alena Herman (24) defend Friday night.
The Knights capitalized on turnovers for a double-digit lead and then held off Iron Mountain 49-37 for the crown Friday.
Norway Coach Carli Kelly found the bright side to the night despite her team's struggles late in the game.
"My assistant coach, Kevin Kangas, who is very smart, told me no matter if you win by a thousand or win by one, you won the district and be happy," Kelly said. "I'm happy. It's been a long wait."
Norway last claimed the girls basketball district title in 2008. Forcing 35 Iron Mountain turnovers paved the way to the regional tournament.
"Pressure was the number one factor," Iron Mountain Coach Ginger Moore said. "Pressure took us out of a nice consistent look at the basket."
Norway freshman Jordan Kraemer scored a game-high 16 points and pulled down 11 rebounds. Junior Brenda Casanova chipped in 11 points. Rachel Conery drained three first-half triples against the Mountaineer zone for nine points.
Norway, powered by a 13-0 run during a six-minute stretch, built a 22-6 advantage. Kraemer and Casanova each had four points.
Iron Mountain answered with a 10-5 run over the final four minutes of the first half. The Knights coach expected more points from the turnovers.
"We have to be able to come down and score on those turnovers," Kelly said. "I didn't think we did as good a job as we should have of turning those points into turnovers."
Norway, ahead by 11 at halftime, extended the margin to 12 for the fourth quarter. Neither team found the hoop for almost the first three minutes of the final stanza.
"I thought we played good basketball for three quarters," Kelly said. "Then we got a little sloppy and didn't score for how many minutes?
"They switched up defenses and that slowed us down a little bit. But it seemed like nobody wanted to score or finish. Iron Mountain came out and pressured us good."
Norway wound up with 28 turnovers.
An Alena Herman free throw broke the drought at 5:12 and the Mountaineers followed with an Alyssa Khor triple and two Katie Brule gifters.
Norway, scoreless for nearly five minutes of the fourth quarter, saw its lead drop to 41-35.
"We were down and continued to fight," Moore said. "They've never given up all year long and that's all I can ask for."
Norway stopped the Iron Mountain comeback with Leah Mattson delivering a slick inside pass to Kraemer for a lay-up and 43-35 edge at 3:03.
The Knights netted six free throws from Kraemer, Jacey Bal and Casanova to close out the contest.
"It's a team sport from beginning to end," Kelly said of her Knights. "You have to help each other in practice and help each other in games."
Elli McCole and sophomore Katie Brule each laced eight points to lead the Mountaineers. Herman grabbed 10 rebounds and Brule had seven.
The Mountaineer coach, in addition to turnovers, thought Norway did a better job on the boards. The Mountaineers converted 23 of 35 free throws to beat West Iron in the district semifinal but meshed just 10 of 21 against the Knights.
"Our free throws didn't drop like they did the day before," Moore said. "If you're playing for district, you can't be giving up rebounds."
Iron Mountain finished 3-19 in Moore's first season as head coach. But she can't wait to see what develops next season.
"We have improved all year long," Moore said. "They've been a complete joy and I couldn't ask for a better group. I'm proud of them.
"Next year we're going to be a team to contend with."
Norway (9-12) and L'Anse (19-3) will meet at 5 p.m. (Central time) Tuesday at Escanaba in the regional semifinal.
"L'Anse will be quick and fast," Kelly noted.
Iron Mountain 6 10 13 8 - 37
Norway 13 14 14 8 - 49
IM: Khor 3, Herman 6, Feira 5, McCole 8, Pirkola 7, Brule 8. FT: 10-21. F: 20. Fouled out: McCole.
N: Casanova 11, Bal 4, Kraemer 16, Conery 9, Zanon 4, Grayvold 5. FT:14-26. F: 22.
3-pt: Casanova, Conery 3, Grayvold, Khor, Herman, Feira. FGs: IM 12-42, N 15-57. Reb: IM 35 (Herman 10, Brule 7), N 31 (Kraemer 11).