Baraga’s barrage punches semifinal ticket

PAINESDALE – Baraga rocked Dollar Bay with an early barrage of three-point baskets and was never headed in scoring a 48-35 Class D district opening-round girls basketball game Monday night.

The Vikings took a quick 9-1 lead as Brittany Nieskes, Jenna Heikkinen and Rebecca Larson all connected from beyond the arc.

“We shot really, really well to begin the game,” BHS coach Mariah Dunham said. “We had some offensive troubles after that, but it’s very important to get that first district win under your belt … and we did that tonight.”

The victory earned the Purple and Gold a semifinal matchup with CCC champion Ontonagon at 8 p.m. Wednesday – a game that Dunham expects to be a dogfight.

“It’s going to be a battle. Whoever has the heart and the fight is going to win the game. I know that coach (Dick) Franti will have a couple of tricks up his sleeve,” the Baraga skipper noted.

“We just have to play our game and come out like we did last time against them.”

Dollar Bay, despite the shaky beginning, did manage to battle back to within two points at 18-16 midway through the second period behind a pair of triples by Julia Daavettila.

But the Vikings closed the half with 12-2 run that made it 30-18 at the intermission.

“We made a nice comeback but we started turning the ball over,” DBHS coach Steve Krahling commented. “That’s been a problem all season and it was again tonight.”

Nieskes – the game’s top scorer with 17 – keyed the rally late in the half with six points.

A cold third quarter enabled the Bays to stay close and it stood at 37-30 at quarter’s end.

A triple by Heikkinen to begin the final stanza made it a 40-30 game and Dollar Bay’s problems handling the basketball reared up again, making a comeback impossible to achieve.

“I liked our effort in the last part of the season, but the turnovers were too much to overcome,” Krahling said. “Still, I think we’re going to come back next season and do well.”

In addition to the 17 points by Nieskes, who also had four assists, the 10-11 winners received 11 points and five steals from Heikkinen, who again served as a steadying factor.

“She (Heikkinen) is our clutch player,” Dunham said. “When we need something to happen, the ball seems to land in her hands, and she usually does something positive.”

Larson contributed eight points and seven rebounds, while Shannon Fish collected six points and a team-best nine rebounds.

Julia Daavettila’s 16 points was tops for the 6-13 Bays. Meagan Kangas put in 11 points and nabbed nine rebounds.