By RON DEUTER
KINGSFORD - The Flivvers girls basketball team, forcing Iron Mountain into as many turnovers as points, nearly let a 16-point lead get away from them here Friday night.
Theresa Peterson/The Daily News Photo
Iron Mountain’s Alena Herman tries to work around Kingsford’s Amber Larson during the fourth quarter Friday night.
Up 30-14 in the third quarter, Kingsford saw the Mountaineers close to within four points before sealing a 37-31 victory at the foul line in the final minute.
"Defensively they were in that zone, and you have to be able to make shots," Flivvers coach Mike Cross said. "In that first half we actually hit some shots. In the second half we just went cold, went really cold, and that's the difference."
Carlee Benzie's 17 points led all players. She poured in 11 of those in the first half, and finally iced the game for Kingsford with four free throws in the final 30 seconds.
But before those final freebies, the Flivvers had made just one fourth-quarter bucket after scoring only five points in the third quarter.
With the Flivvers struggling to score, Iron Mountain charged back on the strength of two fourth-quarter threes by Sarah Pirkola and another by Katelynn Johnson. Pirkola finished with eight points to lead Iron Mountain.
"We hung around," Mountaineers coach John Hogberg said. "We stayed in the game, and at the end I thought we gave ourselves a chance to win."
Pirkola canned her second trey with 41 seconds to play, making it 33-29. A Kingsford turnover in the backcourt gave the Mountaineers a chance, but they couldn't draw closer.
"I'm proud of the girls," Hogberg said. "Our defense was awesome tonight. I don't think they got a basket within in three feet in the hoop. They got a little hot and hit a few threes, but our interior defense was stellar."
Turnovers limited the Mountaineers chances, as the combination of unforced errors along with Kingsford's suffocating pressure had the Mountaineers into double digits in giveaways by the end of the first quarter.
Iron Mountain had 28 turnovers through three quarters but only added three more in the fourth.
"The turnovers hurt," Hogberg said. "Plus we don't have a lot of pure scorers. We do a lot of good things but we drop the ball and fumble it out of bounds. It's getting to be old, but it isn't due to a lack of effort.
"We are trying so hard out there. I'm proud of the girls. One of these days hopefully some good things happen."
Benzie, Courtney Qualley and Santina Bianco all flung in threes for Kingsford in the first half, as the Flivvers expanded their margin to 11 points by halftime.
Bianco's second triple of the game followed by a Qualley jumper pushed Kingsford to its 16-point lead early in the third quarter. But that was it for field goals for the Flivvers until Benzie drove in for two with 1:45 to play in the game.
"We just struggled offensively in the second half," Cross said. "But we were able to pull it out. Carlee did nice job of making some free throws at the end for us."
Iron Mountain was limited to chances at the foul line, missing both, while Kingsford converted 6-of-11.
"Defensively we did a nice job," Cross said. "They struggled with the pressure, but we've got to be able to make some shots. A win is a win though, and especially in an Iron Mountain-Kingsford game - it's just nice to come out with a win."
Kingsford added a 75-49 triumph in jayvee action, but the Mountaineers prevailed 50-23 in the freshmen game.
The Flivvers (6-2) host Escanaba Thursday. Iron Mountain (0-8) plays at Norway Tuesday.
Iron Mountain 6 8 4 13 - 31
Kingsford 15 10 5 7 - 37
IRON MOUNTAIN: Pirkola 8, Bujold 6, McCole 4, Gerhard 4, Herman 4, Johnson 3, Girard 2. FT: 0-2. F: 14.
KINGSFORD: Benzie 17, Qualley 7, Bianco 6, Larson 3, Roell 2, Fleming 2. FT: 6-11. F: 15.
FG shooting - IM: 14-38 (3-pt: 3-13); K: 13-48 (3-pt: 5-19). 3-pt FGs - IM: Pirkola (2), Johnson; K: Benzie (2), Bianco (2), Qualley. Rebounding - IM: 37 (Gerhard 9); K: 27 (Roell 7).