STATE CHAMPIONS! Ishpeming Brings Home Title

Story courtesy of MHSAA/Keith Dunlap. Photos courtesy of MHSAA/Hockey Weekly Action Photos. Click HERE for the full box score.

 This gave new definition to soaring to new heights on the wings of an eagle. 

Through the first 15 minutes of Saturday’s Division 4 championship game against Kingston, Ishpeming sophomore and leading scorer Jenessa Eagle had just two points. 

From that point on, nobody on the floor flew higher. 

Eagle scored 25 points over the final two quarters plus a minute of the second, finishing with a game-high 27 points to help lead Ishpeming to its first Finals title with a 73-54 win over a Kingston team that also was playing in its first championship game. 

“I was really getting into wanting to win,” Eagle said. “I was wanting to do it for my team. I wasn’t really thinking that much. I was just going out and doing what I practiced.”

Ishpeming became the first girls basketball team from the Upper Peninsula to win a Finals championship since Calumet and St. Ignace did so in 2015. 

Despite what the final score said, Ishpeming had to navigate some first-half adversity.

Kingston used a 16-2 run late in the first quarter to take a 22-11 lead going into the second. A critical juncture came with 2:34 remaining in the second quarter, when Ishpeming senior Jenna Maki had to leave the game with her third foul.

Kingston held a 26-21 lead at that point, with Maki having scored 16 of the Hematites’ points. But Ishpeming rallied with Maki on the bench, outscoring Kingston 10-4 the rest of the quarter to take a 31-30 lead into halftime. 

Eagle and senior Kaitlyn Van Deuren each sank 3-pointers to start the rally, and then Eagle and senior Payton Manninen both added 2-point baskets for the Hematites. 

“We have a very trusted bench,” Ishpeming head coach Ryan Reichel said. “Our girls all come in knowing that they have a role where they can compete and do some big things for us. Even when Jenna was out, we knew we had girls who could still put the ball in the basket.”

Ishpeming continued that momentum during the third quarter, forcing six turnovers over the first 1:39 of the frame to build a 39-30 lead. Eagle then caught fire from the outside, draining a couple of deep 3-pointers to give Ishpeming a 47-34 lead with 3:35 to go in the period.

Ishpeming ultimately took a 58-46 lead into the fourth quarter, with Eagle scoring 15 of the team’s 27 points during the third. The Hematites kept up the pressure from there, going on a 10-0 run to take a 73-50 lead with 3:21 remaining and essentially start the celebration. 

Maki, the school’s all-time leading scorer, finished a terrific career by adding 24 points to her total and pulling down eight rebounds. She and the rest of Ishpeming’s seniors fulfilled an ambition they have had since they started playing together in kindergarten. 

The Hematites won just five games four seasons ago, but skyrocketed quickly and are now on top of the state. 

“It really does feel great,” Maki said. “Just like this experience, it feels surreal right now. It’s amazing to see all the fans and all our community who made it down here. It’s a great feeling.”Senior Abbey Walker had 14 points and 10 rebounds and sophomore Molly Walker scored 14 points for Kingston, which finished a historic season of its own at 27-2. 

“This was a great day for Kingston girls basketball,“ Kingston head coach Jay Green said. “There was a huge crowd here supporting us, and we played an outstanding team. The girls gave it all they got. I told their coach after the game that they can make the final four in Division 1, 2, 3 or 4. That team is outstanding. Everybody knows that.”