MANISTIQUE - Victories may have been a little hard to come by, but that didn't stop the Manistique jayvee girls from showing steady improvement during their recent 5-15 basketball season.
"We didn't have a lot of experience coming into the season," said coach Bob Ryan. "There were a couple games that slipped away from us, although the biggest thing is the improvement we showed from beginning to end.
"For example, we lost by 28 points at Ishpeming the first time up there, then lost to them by 10 at home. Also, we lost by 11 at Westwood and by one at our place and to Norway by 20 at home, then by five up there. We also had a good game with Iron Mountain. We lost to them by eight and they were undefeated at the time. We wish we would have had a few more games. We were playing pretty well in the end."
Among the Emeralds' highlights were a sweep of Gwinn, winning 42-35 at home on Feb. 1 and 42-36 at Gwinn two nights later, and a season-ending 46-26 victory at Big Bay de Noc.
"Things got kind of scary at Gwinn," said Ryan. "We took a 16-point lead into the fourth quarter, then had to hang on. After our (eight-point) loss to Iron Mountain, we kind of meshed the freshmen and sophomores together and made some strides. We have something to build on. Gaining the experience of playing at this level is the biggest thing. I hope the freshmen benefitted from the season, and I feel they did."
The Emeralds featured a young team, led by three returning sophomores.
Holly Blowers, a 5-foot-9 sophomore forward, paced the Emeralds by averaging 11 points and more than 9 1/2 rebounds a game.
"With her quickness and athleticism, we would have liked to free Holly up a little more," said Ryan. "Holly had a very good year. We're really pleased with the way she played for us."
Machaela Hinkson, a 5-8 sophomore forward, averaged 10.2 points and nearly 7 1/2 rebounds and sophomore guard Madison Russell finished with 86 points.
"Machaela also had a very good year," said Ryan. "I think she will develop into a fine player, and Madison is a steady player and hard worker."
Handling the point guard duties was freshman Natasha Joslin, who had 68 points and 50 assists this season.
"We started the year with the point guard position being an unknown and Natasha stepped into that role from Day 1 and improved all year," said Ryan. "It was nice to see her come on and handle that position."
First-year sophomore Ashley Menominee and freshman Macala Beckman shared the fifth starting spot, both at forward.
"Both of these girls did a nice job," said Ryan. "They also improved as the year went on."