Happy ending for Finlandia women

HANCOCK – Finlandia’s 76-66 home win over Presentation Saturday played out much like its season in microcosm: Rough patches over the first half but a conclusion leaving everyone in blue and white happy and hopeful.

The Lions took over down the stretch and got 28 points from Marissa Burke to end their season with a fourth straight victory and ninth in 10 games.

“We took care of the ball the last 10 minutes pretty good, and really we got away from shooting the three, which we’ve done a lot this year, and got the ball inside more. Marissa was huge,” Finlandia coach Jason Keefer said.

Burke, the Watersmeet alumna and former U.P. Class D Player of the Year, fought her way to the free throw line several times in the second half, earning 12 attempts from the stripe in the last 20 minutes alone and making 11.

“At the beginning I was hitting my threes. I started cooling off from outside, so I then I just started posting up, started hitting those, made a lot of free throws,” she said.

Burke knocked down 3-of-4 from outside the arc in the first half, but the rest of the Lions were just 1-for-17 from three. After the break, Burke spent more time on the interior and her teammates picked up the slack from deep, shooting a much more efficient 4-for-10, with two treys apiece from Brierra Ruska and Paige Yoho.

Neither side established dominance over the first 30 minutes of an evenly contested game, but Finlandia finally made its move at about the seven-minutes-to-go mark. Ruska hit a three to start an 11-0 run that put the Lions up 65-58 with 4:22 left, then added an exclamation point with 3:29 to go, connecting on her other trey on a long-range heave after the Lions had to inbound the ball with just one second left on the shot clock.

From that point on, the Saints never got closer than six and the Lions closed it out at the free throw line in the last minute.

Yoho finished with 20 points for Finlandia, Ruska 14 points and Emma Cole six points and 13 rebounds.

“We just did a better job keeping them in front of us on defense and we did a better job of boxing out in the second half,” Keefer said.

The Lions, who have no seniors, finish 2012-13 12-13.

“Last year, we won five games, this year we won 12. We won nine out of our last 10. We got better as a team from day one and it showed throughout the year,” Keefer said.

“It’s a good way to end the season and we can’t wait to come back,” Burke said.