Jeffers girls take third win in last four

PAINESDALE – Jeffers looked a lot more like the team that won two of its last three games than the one that lost its first 11 Thursday.

Now, the Jets look like a team that’s won three of its last four after they held off Baraga 57-51.

“We knew it was getting toward the end of the season and we knew we needed to step it up and pull together as a team. We knew we really needed to get excited for districts so we can get some wins in districts,” Jeffers senior Kelsey Heinonen said.

Heinonen, who led all scorers with 17 points, was one of seven Jeffers seniors honored before the game, her last of the regular season in the Jeffers gym.

They’ll play again at home against Chassell or Lake Linden-Hubbell in the Class D district semifinals Feb. 27 and they’re playing like a team that wants to contend.

“They all played hard and everyone tonight literally gave 100 percent and that’s why they came out on top,” Jeffers coach Kathleen Storm said.

Just like when the teams met in Baraga two weeks ago, Jeffers jumped out to a 15-7 lead after the first quarter only for Baraga to counter and take the lead. However, the Jets offered a much better response this time, taking the edge back on Maria Halonen’s textbook reverse lay-up, going into the half up 26-23, then reapplying the pressure by starting the second half on a 15-3 run.

“To shake off mistakes and start every quarter fresh, we’ve really been working on that,” Storm said.

In the run, point guard Shelby Seppanen executed two more reverse lay-ups, while Heinonen drilled a pair of three-pointers, one from extra-long range.

“They came out (of halftime) shooting 100 percent. I swear they didn’t miss one shot. In the third quarter, it was ridiculous. Credit to them, but for us, we’ve got to find a way to get stops when we need them,” Baraga coach Mariah Dunham said.

It may not have been the visitors’ night defensively, but offensively, Baraga kept fighting, finishing the third on a 8-2 run to close to within 10.

Rebecca Larson’s fourth trey of the game cut the gap to five inside the last three minutes, but Jeffers held its nerve. Sophomore forward Haley Makela knocked down two pairs of free throws and an easy lay-up down the stretch.

Makela’s closing effort helped the Jets (3-13, 3-5 CCC) check off one more impressive fundamental: only one missed free throw in 18 attempts.

“Like my Dad always says, ‘they’re ‘free’ throws,’ so I tell them to just relax and shoot your shot,” Storm said.

Makela finished with 15 points, eight in the fourth quarter, while Seppanen had 10 and Abbie Rajala nine on three triples.

For Baraga, Larson finished with 16 points, while Jenna Heikkinen and Shannon Fish added nine apiece.

“Lately, we’ve been so stagnant on offense it’s easy for teams to defend us. Tonight, it was a little bit better, but I’m still waiting for my team to come back to life here. They’re not the same as we were in the beginning. If we can peak at the end, I’m happy for that,” Dunham said.

Jeffers plays at Watersmeet Monday night, while Baraga hosts the U.P.’s and state’s No. 2 Class D team, Forest Park. Baraga won the JV game.