Copper Kings make most of tune-up vs. Jets

CALUMET – Both the Calumet and Jeffers girls’ basketball teams have big weeks ahead and after Thursday’s non-league game, both have something to be pleased about.

Calumet, primarily on the strength of five first-quarter threes, took the contest 66-49 to move to 8-1 on the season, but the much-smaller Jets played the Copper Kings, ranked No. 5 in the U.P. in Class ABC, fairly even over the latter three quarters.

“I love playing the big schools because the competition level is so much higher. The better you play competition the better your team is going to be,” Jeffers coach Joe Romano said.

At 3-1 in the Copper Country Conference, his Jets (5-7 overall) still control their own destiny. Much of that destiny will be determined by three key league games next week: vs. Dollar Bay Monday, at Baraga Thursday and vs. Ontonagon Friday. The Bays and Gladiators also have one league loss apiece.

On the flip side, Calumet has a 2-1 record in the WestPAC with five league games remaining. They’ll play at Hancock Monday and vs. L’Anse Thursday. With two wins next week, Calumet would be at worst even in the loss column with whoever wins Monday’s Houghton-L’Anse game in L’Anse.

“The conference is still up to us. If we win out in conference, we can still win the conference. It’s still all in our hands, which is a great place to be in,” Calumet coach Don Hill said.

If Calumet’s offense works as effectively as it did Thursday, the Kings will be in a great place. The Jets zoned up to mitigate their size disadvantage and were made to pay for it nearly immediately.

Abby Bjorn drilled three triples and Clara Loukus two within the first 5 1/2 minutes as the hosts established a 22-9 edge.

“To come out and blitz their zone early was obviously the key. We’ve been really, really, talking to Abby Bjorn about hitting that open shot when she’s open and tonight, she hit three threes in the first quarter against the zone,” Hill said.

Back-to-back buckets from Loukus made it 32-13 2 1/2 minutes into the second frame, but the Jets kept fighting with the help of tenacious work by junior Haley Makela on the offensive glass and aggressive dribble penetration from senior point guard Shelby Seppanen.

“The one thing we didn’t do a very good job of is keeping Shelby Seppanen out of the paint. She got into the lane too often and they got to the foul line too much,” Hill said.

Jeffers’ best stretch probably came at the start of the second half.

The Jets scored the first seven points, punctuated by an and-one from

Seppanen, to close to within 11.

A series of body blows from Calumet posts Terilynne Budreau, Ellen Twardzik and Janie Torola pushed the lead back into the high teens late in the quarter, giving the teams leave to experiment down the stretch.

Romano was happy with the way Lindsey Johnson, a sophomore, handled herself down low among Calumet’s tall trees, including 10 rebounds.

“She’s not a six-footer, she’s a five-niner,” he said.

Makela led the Jets with 14 points. Seppanen finished with 11.

Lexie Rowe paced Calumet with 14, while Loukus had 12 and Torola 10.

This matchup could be repeated several more times over the years as Seppanen was the only senior on the roster of either squad.

“They’re a very good team and they’re going to compete for that conference,” Hill said of the Jets. “They’re improving every day and there’s some good athletes.”