ISHPEMING - Elizabeth Dauphinais-VanBuren said there was no way she and her Westwood High School girls basketball teammates were going to lose Tuesday night.
"We wanted to win for Lindy (Quayle)," she said after the Patriots rallied for a 41-38 Mid-Peninsula Conference victory over visiting Gwinn. "We wanted to make her proud."
Westwood’s Katie Rankinen moves past Gwinn’s Katie Aho for a shot during the third quarter at Westwood High School on Tuesday. (Journal photo by Matt Keiser)
Quayle, 21, a 2009 WHS graduate, is fighting a rare form of cancer, first-year Patriot coach Kurt Corcoran said. She's undergoing radiation chemotherapy at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., in an attempt to shrink a tumor he said is "too big to be removed."
The WHS players wore purple warm-up T-shirts with "Choose Hope" on the front and "Lindy's Fight" on the back. They also pledged a $1 donation to Quayle's medical expenses for every point they scored in the contest.
Dauphinais-VanBuren was a major reason why the Patriots improved to 3-7 overall and 2-3 in the M-PC. She scored 17 points, came up with five steals and deflected a Gwinn pass to teammate Katie Rankinen with 5.9 seconds left in the game.
Rankinen then calmly sank two free throws to seal the victory after the Modeltowners (3-9 overall, 2-4 in M-PC) had led 33-26 early in the final quarter. Rankinen finished with 13 points.
"The girls never have a sense they're down and out," Corcoran said. "They just never give up.
"The fourth quarter is our best quarter. Our pressure (defense) wears on teams."
Gwinn coach Ben Olsen, who got 13 points from Morgan Bruce and 10 from Ellie Olsen (no relation) said the Patriots' pressure "got to us."
"We had 35 turnovers," he said. "It's the story of our season. In our three wins, we had less than 20 turnovers."
Gwinn trailed 5-0 to start the game, but came back behind a driving layup and a 3-point bucket by Ellie Olsen to take a 9-8 first quarter lead.
Westwood missed numerous layups in the first half, especially in the opening quarter.
"If we had made half of our layups, we would have scored 55 (game) points," Corcoran said.
The Patriots led 13-11 with 3:48 left before intermission on a free throw by Gabrielle Hebert, but Gwinn switched to a 2-3 zone defense that limited the Patriots to just two points the rest of the half.
"Our zone has been working all year," coach Ben Olsen said, "but you don't want to stay with it all the time. We like to switch it up."
A couple of Bruce putback buckets helped the Modeltowners carry an 18-13 advantage into the third quarter, despite seven points by Dauphinais-VanBuren in the first 16 minutes.
Jordyn Hutchens' five points in the third stanza neutralized Dauphinais-VanBuren's six. A bucket by Bruce to start the final quarter gave Gwinn the seven-point lead.
An 8-0 WHS run fueled by five points from Rankinen and three by Dauphinais-VanBuren gave the Patriots a 34-33 lead with 4:20 left.
The two teams traded free throws down the stretch, with Dauphinais-VanBuren sinking a charity stripe toss with 9.9 seconds left to put her team up 39-38.
"It's a huge disappointment," coach Olsen said of the loss. "We go over fundamentals every practice and we need it more than ever now."
Said Corcoran: "It's a stereotypical win for us. We won't get a lot of pretty wins ... but the strength of our team is our hustle.
"We're not that talented offensively, but our constant full court pressure helps us."
Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251.