‘We Finally Did It’: Norway girls capture first MPC title since 1985

Norway's Ada VanHolla (12) looks to the basket while Gwinn's Trisha McGuire defends in Thursday's Mid-Peninsula Conference basketball game. Knights' Haley Clifford and the Modeltowners' Kia Evans (24) and Brenna Bruce (3) look on. (Burt Angeli/The Daily News)

NORWAY — Norway achieved a “big goal” on Thursday.

The unbeaten Knights (18-0, 11-0) charged out to a 21-5 lead in the first quarter and defeated Gwinn 54-34 for their first outright Mid-Peninsula Conference girls basketball championship since 1985.

“We’ve been right there before and now we finally did it,” said Norway coach Carli Kelly, referring to other seasons where the Knights came up short. “I’m proud of the girls. We took it game by game, whatever happened, happened, and here we are.”

Jordan Kraemer, honored before the game for becoming the all-time leading scorer in Norway girls basketball history, added 28 points for a new career total of 1,310.

“You have to do the little goals before you get the big ones,” Kelly said. “Every day we have a goal, every day in practice we have a goal. Every game I give them a certain challenge that they have to meet. I think that helps them mentally focus a little bit better.”

Gwinn coach Ben Olsen has watched too many games this season with results like Thursday’s first quarter.

“We got down by 16 points in the first quarter and we lost by 20,” said Olsen, an Iron Mountain High School graduate. “If you want to look at what happened it was obviously that first quarter. “That’s kind of been a microcosm of our season. We have one bad quarter every game.”

Norway defeated Iron Mountain on Wednesday to clinch a share of the MPC title.

“It went about as I expected (tonight),” Kelly said. “I thought they bounced back from last night.

“The score is never really the story of the game. Tonight we came out stronger, came out hungrier.”

The Knights, wearing throwback uniforms from the mid-2000 seasons, held a 38-16 lead at intermission. The third quarter went to the Modeltowners 7-5.

“We did get a little lazy in the third quarter,” Kelly said. “It took us about five minutes to score. I finally told them to take the lid off the basket.”

Britta Grayvold chipped in eight points for the Knights while sophomores Ada VanHolla and Haley Clifford each had six.

Gwinn, hurt by 22 turnovers, collected a team-high 13 points and 12 rebounds from sophomore Trisha McGuire. Tierra Taylor had nine points.

“We don’t have a team that can play back from that (first-quarter deficit),” Olsen said.

Norway wraps up MPC play Tuesday by hosting Westwood.

“I was able to give my starters some rest,” said Kelly, indicating back-to-back games this week with players sick and injured. “They needed to rest and the other girls to step in.”

Gwinn defeated Norway 38-30 in the junior varsity game. Jaclyn Bal led the Knights with 11.

Gwinn 5 11 7 11 — 34

Norway 21 17 5 11 — 54

GWINN: Mannor 4, Bruce 3, McGuire 13, Hill 2, Evans 3, Taylor 9, FT: 6-12. F: 8. 3PT: Bruce 1, McGuire 1. FG: 13-39. Rebounds: 34 (McGuire 12).

NORWAY: Grayvold 8, Clifford 6, VanHolla 6, Jordan Kraemer 28, Madigan 5, Faull 1. FT: 5-12. F: 17. 3PT: Grayvold 2, Madigan 1. FG: 23-50.