KINGSFORD - Hunter Vitala scored seven of her game-high 19 points in the first quarter, and Marquette Senior High School built a lead it never lost in a 48-41 physical and turnover-ridden Great Northern Conference girls basketball game Friday night.
"We knew they were going to come after us, mix in some different things" Marquette coach Ben Smith said. "We did a better job with (the pressure) this year than we did last year, but they just play so hard. They are pretty relentless."
The Flivvers, led by Carlee Benzie's 16 points, helped force Marquette into 28 turnovers. But 24 giveaways of their own, and 24-percent shooting doomed Kingsford's attempt to play catch-up.
Marquette’s Hunter Vitala takes a jump shot during the third quarter on Friday night at Kingsford High School. Vitala led all scorers in the Great Northern Conference contest with 19 points. (Iron Mountain Daily News photo by Theresa Peterson)
"I saw a lot of good things we did out there, I really did," Flivvers coach Mike Cross said. "In the second half I saw the intensity out there that we needed to come out with to win the game. But I do think we have to get better offensively? We have to be able to put the ball in the hole."
After Marquette built an eight-point lead in the first quarter, the Flivvers were unable to close the gap and trailed by nine at halftime.
The deficit could have been worse, as Vitala went to the line to shoot four free throws as a result of a foul and a technical on the Kingsford bench. Benzie was whistled for her fourth foul of the half, and disagreement from Cross on who the foul was on led to the technical.
But Vitala made only one of the four attempts. Benzie, despite the foul trouble, played major minutes after halftime, scoring 11 of her 16 and coming up with several steals before finally fouling out late in the game.
"Benzie played really hard," Smith said. "Even with four fouls, she still effected the game tremendously, and did it without fouling. We knew coming in we'd have to try to find an answer for her, try to limit her as best you can."
Benzie closed the third quarter with a fast-break lay-up and drew a foul. The three-point play helped fuel Kingsford to a 10-2 run into the final frame, bringing Kingsford within five at 34-29.
But every time Kingsford got close, Marquette responded.
Liana Storm hit a triple to end Kingsford's push, and hit several free throws in the final minutes as Kingsford threatened again late. Storm scored eight of her 10 in the fourth quarter.
Courtney Qualley, scoring 12 for the Flivvers, drove in for lay-up with 1:10 to play to bring Kingsford within six. But again Marquette had an answer at the line.
"Defensively, I thought we gave them fits, in the second half especially," Cross said. "We just have to put the ball in the basket. We got big production again from Benzie and Qualley, but we have to have some other kids step up a bit and hit some outside shots."
Smith was pleased with the Redettes performance at the foul line where they went 16-for-25.
"We were more confident from the free throw line tonight," he said. "It's always tough playing them in here, or at our place. They are always super-well prepared. They have athletes that know what to do."
Marquette improved to 3-2 (2-0 GNC) with the win.
Marquette took the JV contest 57-46.