GRAND RAPIDS – Patience explains much of why the Bellaire girls basketball team finds itself on the brink of history.
The Eagles charged into their first Division 4 championship game with a methodical 48-29 win over Petersburg Summerfield in Wednesday's Semifinal at Van Andel Arena.
Bellaire wasn't necessarily flashy, but used a hefty rebounding edge, a stingy defense that allowed just three second-half baskets and a balanced offense to earn the trip to Friday's 10 a.m. championship game at the Breslin Center against Fowler.
Doing a bit of everything right is why the Eagles will play for their first-ever Finals title, coach Brad Fischer said.
"We want to be patient offensively," he said. "It's hard to key on any one person for five or six passes. We like to work the ball around and keep the team concept. (Defensively) we've played against teams with 3-point shooters, and we don't want to let too many 3-pointers off."
Bellaire (17-3) never trailed after taking a 20-19 lead with 1:34 left in the first half. Summerfield cut a seven-point deficit to as little as 28-25 with 4:10 left in the third quarter, but Bellaire scored 12 of the next 13 points to lead 40-26 with six minutes left in the game.
The Eagles' defense was superb, allowing just two field goals in the final 11 minutes. Bellaire forced 15 turnovers while holding the Bulldogs (15-5) to just 24 percent shooting from the floor. Bellaire, meanwhile, shot 42 percent.
"We keep telling the girls defense, defense, defense," Fischer said. "It's a cliché, but it comes up again. It was kind of an odd game in that we didn't move our feet at times, and we were a little undisciplined. But the longer a game goes, the stronger the girls get in ratcheting it up."
Senior guard Katie Decker and sophomore center Jacey Somers each scored 10 points with Madi Evans and Emersyn Koepke each adding eight. Decker added 11 rebounds as Bellaire held a 37-22 edge on the boards.
Senior Noel Mann, who chipped in six points, six assists, six rebounds and two steals, said the ability to overcome Summerfield's defense was a key.
"Their ability to anticipate, to extend our zone took us off guard," she said. "Once we got through that, it opened things up for us. Their defense was longer than we expected."
Summerfield coach Mickey Moody said the sagging rebounding number was mostly the result of Bellaire's aggressiveness.
"They outworked us, outrebounded us," Moody said. "They put more bodies on us, and we didn't attack the basket like we usually do. We pretty much went side to side. I thought we played pretty decent in the first half and got their best player in foul trouble, but we missed a lot of opportunities. We should have attacked a lot more. But in the first half we were fine, we just missed some opportunities."
Summerfield got nine points from Destanee Smith, while Grace Kalb and Breanna Smith each had six points.
"They were aggressive and put pressure on us," Kalb said. "It was a lot like our Regional Semifinal. When we'd drive on them, they weren't afraid to put a body on us."
PHOTOS: (Top) Bellaire's Delaney Goodwin (2) brings the ball upcourt Wednesday with Madi Evans (32) and Katie Decker (3) also on the break. (Middle) Bellaire's Jacey Somers gets up a shot against Calumet. (Click for more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)
STAMBAUGH — Danica Shamion has enjoyed plenty of success in track & field throughout her high school athletic career.
The West Iron County senior is also quite successful in basketball.
Shamion joined the 1,000-point club here Jan. 23 while scoring 34 in a 63-60 loss to Norway.
“That really felt good,” she said after last week’s 93-41 win over Bessemer on Senior Night. “I’m glad I was able to do that at home. Although, it would have been even better had we won that game.”
The Wykons scored five in double digits against the Speedgirls, led by senior Siena Stine with 20 points. Junior center Sidney Storti added 17 points, and Shamion finished with 16 points and 17 assists.
“Sidney is a real asset to our team,” Shamion said. “I can see the floor pretty well, and the other girls are doing a pretty good job getting open. This was our last home game. It definitely meant something to us.”
Shamion, an All-Upper Peninsula Division 1-3 first-team selection a year ago, twisted her ankle in a season-opening 47-40 triumph over Iron Mountain and missed the next three games.
West Iron was 1-3 going into the holiday break before getting back on track with a 42-28 victory over Kingsford on Jan. 2. That enabled the Wykons to improve to 4-3 before dropping six of their next seven games.
West Iron, which was 5-9 after dropping a 73-55 decision at Negaunee, had won four in a row prior to Thursday’s 46-44 loss at Calumet. But the Wykons bounced back with a 51-49 win over Ishpeming Westwood on Tuesday to get back to .500 at 10-10.
“We were trying to forge our identity and weren’t hitting our shots (earlier in the season),” Shamion said. “Although, we’ve been playing better defense lately. We’re pretty good one-on-one and usually play man-to-man. We try to run the floor and score in transition.
“Negaunee is probably the best team we’ve seen this year, although Ishpeming and Houghton are also very good and Calumet and Westwood are tough,” she added.
In track & field, Shamion set U.P. Division 2 Finals record in the 200-meter dash (26.34 seconds) and 400 (57.18) last season. She also won the 100 (12.79) and placed second in high jump at 4 feet, 10 inches. She is a three-time Finals champion in all three sprint races.
Shamion also made the all-U.P. Volleyball Dream Team in the fall.
She will continue on the track at Central Michigan University after she graduates from West Iron this spring.
“I didn’t know much about their program, but I was interested in what they had to offer,” she said. “The girls on the team are nice, which is part of the reason why I chose Central. It’s a relief to have that decided.”
John Vrancic has covered high school sports in the Upper Peninsula since joining the Escanaba Daily Press staff in 1985. He is known most prominently across the peninsula for his extensive coverage of cross country and track & field that frequently appears in newspapers from the Wisconsin border to Lake Huron. He received the James Trethewey Award for Distinguished Service in 2015 from the Upper Peninsula Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association.
PHOTOS (Top) West Iron’s Danica Shamion (24) blocks a shot during her team’s game at Ishpeming on Jan. 15. (Middle) Shamion maintains possession of the ball. (Photos by Cara Kamps.)