Girls basketball: Iron Mountain downs Norway in semis, 51-35

Iron Mountain's Riley Poupore (32) and Reagan Lundholm (14) battle Norway's Haley Clifford for a rebound during a Class C District 94 semifinal on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018, in Norway, Mich. (Adam Niemi/Iron Mountain Daily News)

NORWAY — Riley Poupore’s double-double helped the Mountaineers to a 51-35 district semifinal win over Norway on Wednesday.

Poupore scored a game-high 29 points and grabbed 16 rebounds.

The Mountaineers (6-14) advance to the Class C District 94 final at 6 p.m. Friday, hosting West Iron County. The Wykons spilled Ironwood 61-42 in the other district semifinal Wednesday.

“We definitely played well together as a team. We moved the ball around a lot, which is what we’ve been focusing on. Riley Poupore played unbelievable. She’s tougher than nails,” Iron Mountain head coach Katelynn Johnson said. “Saylor Swartout came up big with some nice drives to the basket. Reagan Lundholm was huge off the bench in the first half with a couple shots. It was definitely an all-around team effort.”

Ada VanHolla’s 17 points paced Norway (6-15).

“As typical of all year, we shot and had those in-and-outs. We had the layups that rattled in. We didn’t finish a lot of shots,” Norway head coach Joe Tinti said. “It just catches up to us over time. When we’re in it, we’re in it and then we just get so far behind and then we switch things up too much. Again we had good quarters and the bad quarters put us in a hole that we just couldn’t dig ourselves out of.”

The Mountaineers took an early lead and held a 16-9 advantage after the first quarter and 29-16 at halftime. The Knights’ struggled to establish a rhythm throughout the night and never found a way to sustain a comeback effort. Norway went scoreless during various stretches of the game as Iron Mountain added a basket here and there to its lead.

Tinti said Norway’s lack of physicality was a detriment as Iron Mountain dominated rebounding and inside play.

“We haven’t been a physical team all year. Some of that may be because of our youth. They outrebounded us. A lot of second chances,” Tinti said. “We had a lot of times where we had a steal, the ball’s loose and instead of us grabbing it, Iron Mountain would grab it and we gave them too many second opportunities and gave them points. I’m happy for Katelynn, first-year coach. I really hope they go out and play a nice game Friday.”

Johnson said she prepared her young team as much for the tournament atmosphere as the on-court strategies.

“Norway’s a hard place to play, so we emphasized a lot of how it’s going to be loud. We didn’t try to do a lot of game-like situations. We watched a lot of film. We came in with our gameplan,” Johnson said. “Everybody knew the gameplan from the first person on my floor to the last person on the bench. We really emphasized that as much as we possibly could. We came in with some difference options knowing they were probably going to throw different defenses at us this time. The planning and preparation, not just by myself but my assistant Richard Olds, but the team as well, helped majorly.”

Iron Mountain extended its lead steadily from the second quarter on, allowing Johnson to send junior varsity call-ups on the floor for playing time. Claire Mongrain knocked down her only shot of the game, a 3-pointer that gave the Mountaineers their 13-point late in the first quarter.

“Claire Mongrain’s a hustler and she went out there and did that for us tonight. She even hit a shot — a 3-pointer. It’s great,” Johnson said. “It’s nice to know that I have confidence in my bench and the rest of the team does as well.”

Iron Mountain 16 13 10 12 — 51

Norway 9 7 7 12 — 35

IRON MOUNTAIN (51): Poupore 29, Swartout 10, Lundholm 7, Mongrain 3, Ellis 2. FT: 11-21. F: 15. FG: 18-40. 3PT: 4-5 (Poupore 2, Lundholm 1, Mongrain 1). Rebounds: 26 (Poupore 16). Turnovers: 10.

NORWAY (35): VanHolla 17, H. Clifford 9, Stanchina 4, Anderson 2, Faull 2, M. Clifford 1. FT: 8-16. F: 19 (Bal fouled out).