By John Vrancic
GLADSTONE - The Gladstone girls' freshman and jayvee basketball teams enjoyed solid seasons in 2013-14, finishing 14-2 and 13-4, respectively.
Gladstone's freshmen finished second in the Great Northern Conference behind Kingsford and the jayvees were runners-up to Marquette.
Freshman coach Katie Poma had the opportunity to face her former mentor Jon Lorenzoni when the Braves played Kingsford.
"I played under Jon as a freshman and sophmore (on jayvees) at North Central," said Poma (the former Katie Graham). "This is also the first time he coached against one of his former players. It's kind of nice to have that connection with another coach. We were able to compare and talk about different teams. I've learned a lot from Jon and have a lot of respect for him."
Also among the highlights was a three-game sweep of Escanaba and a 52-40 victory over Sault Ste. Marie at home on Feb. 15.
"It's always a good game when we play Escanaba," said Poma. "I thought Mike (coach Beveridge) did a great job with his girls. They have a few real good players on their team. All three games were close. Sault Ste. Marie had a few girls who were taller than us, but our girls kept their composure."
Forward Tasi Martinez led the freshmen by averaging 11.8 points a game. Point guard Alyssa Polley, who collected 43 steals this season, shared the backcourt duties with shooting guard Mollie Wiltzius. Forward/guard Paige Loehr finished with 36 assists and averaged six rebounds.
"All four of these girls can take the ball up the court," said Poma. "All of them played point guard at some point. Tasi just couldn't get enough. She went to any open gym she could find. Paige can shoot the three and drive to the basket. Alyssa was plus-10 on the turnover ratio, which is pretty good. She'd come to practice early and stay late. That's what you look for as a coach, somebody who's willing to work hard."
Leading the Braves' inside game was 5-foot-8 center Taylor Berthaume.
"Taylor had the best hands of any center I've seen," said Poma. "Any pass you make around her, she can grab it. She never complains and is very coachable. She always wanted to be there and part of the team."
Contributing in reserve roles were guards Macy Trudeau and Elizabeth Lektzian and guard/forward Brooke Harris, a transfer from Rapid River.
"Macy is a great defender and Elizabeth contributed very well off the bench," said Poma. "Brooke is an extremely hard worker and has a great attitude. She always asked for help when she needed it. She was such a pleasure to coach."
The jayvees averaged 53 points a game and held their opponents to an average of 36.7.
"We had very nice balance," said coach Eric Lundin. "We had multiple people in double digits in several games. Our goal was to keep our opponents under 40 points a game. We're real pleased with our defensive effort."
Sophomore forward and co-captain Ashley Edwardsen and freshman forward/gaurd Leigha Woelffer averaged 14 points, followed by 6-2 sophomore center Isabella Mathews at 11 1/2 and sophomore shooting guard and co-captain Caitlyn Leisner 6 1/2.
"Our captains did things on and off the court that helped us get to where we are," said Lundin. "They're nice role models who worked with the younger kids. They literally lived in the gym during the summer. We saw a lot of improvement from Izzy during the year. She had three consecutive double-doubles against three very good basketball teams, which was nice to see. Leigha has a great work ethic. She fit in very well and was well respected by the girls."
Splitting time at point guard were Morgan Kowalski and Sam Sailer.
"They did a lot of role play and taking care of the basketball," said Lundin. "They usually combined for about six points, which really helped us."
Filling reverse roles were sophomore forward Jill Thompson and guards Sophie Carlson and Kacie Tryan. "These girls did a nice job for us off the bench," said Lundin.
The jayvees, like the freshmen, had plenty of highlights this season.
"Ironically, we probably played our best game against Marquette (in a 49-47 loss at home on Jan. 14)," said Lundin, who has five years of overall coaching experience. "In the end, we came within a shot of winning it. That showed our group we could compete with anybody. It was a great game, one of the best I've been a part of.
"We also had a very good game against Kingsford (in a 65-21 victory) early in the year. That showed what kind of shape we were in and we're pleased we able to beat Menominee twice this year. Anytime we can do that, it's a plus."
Gladstone's series with Esky resulted in a split, winning 52-30 at home on Jan. 3 and dropping a 51-48 decision at Esky on Feb. 10.
"We were a little surprised by that," Lundin said of the loss at Esky. "Although, we knew Escanaba was a good team. They played a great game."