Freeland Finds Way to Season's Last Day

March 22, 2019

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

GRAND RAPIDS – Freeland was doubled up in rebounding, shot 14 fewer free throws and had one more turnover than Hamilton during Friday’s first Division 2 Semifinal at Van Noord Arena.

But the Falcons won out in experience and accuracy – and those made the differences in earning their first MHSAA championship game berth since winning the Class C title in 1998.

Hitting 60 percent of its shots during the second half, and nearly half of its 3-pointers for the game, Freeland was able to come back from a double-digit second-half deficit and down previously-unbeaten Hamilton 71-66.

The Falcons trailed from the 4-minute mark of the second quarter until 5:13 remained in the game. But they were never out, even as Hamilton 6-foot-2 sophomore A.J. Ediger went for 33 points and 17 rebounds while controlling the paint most of the game.

“We always said we would go as far as we can, go out with a bang,” said Alyssa Argyle, who with Autumn Kloha and Lily Beyer will finish her fourth varsity season in Saturday’s Division 2 Final.

“We’ve always had that mentality to finish out hard and not give up.”

That came in especially handy as the Falcons (24-2) played in their second Semifinal in three seasons.

Hamilton (25-1) was playing in its first ever, adding to the best two-year run in program history. And in addition to Ediger’s post power and a team 42-20 scoring advantage in the paint, the Hawkeyes made 9-of-13 shots from the floor during the second quarter to turn a one-point deficit into an eight-point halftime lead.

But that was nothing new for the Falcons. They also had trailed at halftime in both Regional games and the Quarterfinal.

“I can’t say enough about these three girls and this team,” Freeland coach Tom Zolinski said, referring to his four-year seniors. “They have won in their careers 92 games, which is unbelievable, and they just wouldn’t let it happen tonight.

“We fell down quite a bit. We were undersized. Everything was against us. The crowd was huge for them. And (we) did it.”

Hawkeyes senior guard Bria Schrotenboer put her team ahead 34-23 with a free throw 58 seconds into the third quarter. They led by at least 11 as late as 2:48 to go in the period.

But over the next 5½ minutes, Freeland rambled through a 24-11 run with junior Kadyn Blanchard sinking 10 points and Beyer seven.

“Obviously that little run there where they caught fire, that’s what we saw from them every single game we’ve seen,” Hamilton coach Dan VanHekken said. “We knew they’d been down a few games here at halftime and didn’t quit. They again replicated that tonight. They’ve got a lot of heart and didn’t give up. They don’t get rattled. … Their body language, they were not rattled.”

The teams traded leads one more time before Argyle put Freeland ahead for good with a 3-pointer with 4:30 left.

“We worked so hard in the fourth quarter. We came back, and we had our heart in the game,” Kloha said. “And we knew we were down in the first half, but at halftime we needed to pick it up and keep our heads up, and we came back. And we came back strong, and we stayed together as a team.”

Argyle also scored her 1,000th career point during the fourth quarter and finished with 17 on the night. Blanchard led with 23 points, seven rebounds and four steals, and Beyer added 13 points.

Schrotenboer added 13 points and six rebounds, and senior guard Riki Ediger had nine points, eight rebounds, eight assists and five steals.

Hamilton capped a three-year run with a combined 71-5 record, also making its first Quarterfinal in 2018.

“Especially just being a four-year senior, I’ve been playing with these girls a long time,” Schrotenboer said. “It’s sad to go out this way, but we had the best record Hamilton ever had, and I will remember that forever.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Freeland’s Autumn Kloha works to get past Hamilton’s Riki Ediger during Friday’s Division 2 Semifinal at Van Noord Arena. (Middle) Hamilton’s A.J. Ediger gets up a shot on the way to scoring 33 points.

West Iron Track Champ Shamion Also Finishing 1,000-Point Hoops Career

By John Vrancic
Special for

February 21, 2024

STAMBAUGH — Danica Shamion has enjoyed plenty of success in track & field throughout her high school athletic career.

Upper PeninsulaThe 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.

Shamion maintains possession of the ball.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 VrancicJohn 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.)