Maki, Hematites Crush Fowler; State Final Up Next

Story courtesy of MHSAA/Keith Dunlap. Photo courtesy of MHSAA/Hockey Weekly Action Photos. Click the AUDIO button to hear the post-game comments.

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EAST LANSING---It was the Jenna Maki Show in the first Division 4 Semifinal at Michigan State University’s Breslin Center on Thursday. 

The Ishpeming senior put on quite a display, scoring a game-high 30 points for the Hematites in a 75-40 defeat of Fowler. 

For most of the game Maki was keeping scoring pace with the Eagles by herself. She had 22 points at halftime to Fowler’s 19, and 29 points at the end of three quarters to Fowler’s 27. 

The 5-foot-10 guard sat for most of the fourth quarter, finishing 11 of 22 from the field and 7 of 11 from the free-throw line.

“Obviously watching film and breaking down what they do as a defense and their whole game, we all did that together as a team,” Maki said. “I just tried to play as hard as a I could to break through.”

Maki eclipsed 1,000 career points earlier in the year, and with her last point Thursday became the school’s all-time leading scorer. Ishpeming head coach Ryan Reichel credited her with making a major transformation before the season started – one that has helped Ishpeming advance to a championship game for the first time.

“She changed as a player,” Reichel said. “She went from a me player to a we player over this past summer. We’re not in this position without her change as an athlete.

“She started on varsity all four years, and we’ve often had to look to her to do everything. She went from wanting to score 1,000 points to wanting to play in the Breslin Center.”

Fowler has been to the Semifinals five straight seasons and has played several great players at Breslin Center. But head coach Nathan Goerge admitted Maki stood out.

“(Maki) is a special player, and we knew it from watching film,” Goerge said. “We had a difficult time containing her. Our help defense struggled a little bit. When you go up against someone like that, it’s usually a recipe for disaster.”

In addition, Ishpeming’s full-court pressure defense wreaked havoc all game on Fowler, forcing the Eagles into 34 turnovers. 

“When you only get one day (between Quarterfinals and Semifinals), it’s really hard to mimic the chaos we provide,” Reichel said. 

Sophomore Jenessa Eagle flanked Maki by scoring 14 points for Ishpeming (27-1) which will try and complete its dream season in the championship game at 10 a.m. Saturday.

Ishpeming hadn’t won a Regional title since 1974 before this run, and Reichel said his team has tried to pay tribute to that 1974 team in several ways.

Reichel said players from the 1974 team weren’t awarded a trophy from administrators back in 1974, so members of that team helped accept the trophy when this year’s squad won its Regional last week.

“They were able to get pictures with this team and kind of relive that journey that they deserved 50 years ago,” Reichel said. “They deserved that more than anybody. Now, they are living through our kids. They are ingrained on this team and are a part of this with us.”

Despite Fowler playing its fifth-straight Semifinal and Ishpeming appearing in its first since 1974, Ishpeming certainly didn’t show signs of jitters from the opening tip, jumping out to a 16-4 lead midway through the first quarter. 

Ishpeming eventually held a 23-6 lead when the quarter was over, making 10 of its 20 shots from the field and forcing 11 Fowler turnovers over the first eight minutes. 

The Hematites continued to grow the lead during the second quarter, taking a 42-17 lead with 51 seconds remaining until halftime.