iron mountain high school athletics
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Girls Varsity Basketball
Game Summaries & Headlines.
- Game Date
- Dec 5, 2023
- : 40
WEST IRON COUNTY HIGH SCHOOL: 47
IRON RIVER — Both the Iron Mountain and West Iron County girls varsity basketball teams entered their season-openers Tuesday night with noticeably different teams than they had in 2022-23.
The Mountaineers lost four starters to graduation from last year’s, while the Wykons lost three from their district-championship team.
With several players in different roles, plus some new varsity players in general, the game evolved as many first nights do. Surely, there were some mistakes — the teams combined for 41 turnovers, for example — but both clubs also showed some promise in the Wykons’ 47-40 WestPAC Conference victory at Charles Greenlund Gymnasium.
“Some of us haven’t really played together as much because we have a lot of new bodies on the team,” said West Iron’s top returning player Danica Shamion, who led all players with 14 points. “We just need to work on trusting each other and knowing where each other (is), but a win is a win and I’m glad we won.”
IM coach Karen Ellis thought her team came together pretty well on opening night.
“I’m really happy with the effort and I’m really happy with how well the girls worked together. It’s a new set of girls with a different skill set that we’ve had in the past and they’re really proving themselves.”
Last year, the Mountaineers were largely a perimeter-based team, but this year’s group appears to be bigger, stronger and more physical. And versatile, too, as IM surprised WIC with a full court press for the first four minutes when the Mountaineers took a 11-5 lead.
Senior Emily Copley scored five points in the early going, while juniors Bella Pickett and Gerilis Sampoll added four each as IM took early control.
“I didn’t expect Iron Mountain to jump on us right away with a press and the first quarter was an indication of that,” WIC coach Eric Shamion said. “They got a nice lead right away and that’s on me.
“I liked our effort in the second quarter when we had a nice run. And then we got the scare with Danica.”
After sinking a 3-pointer that culminated a 14-2 run that gave her team a 24-16 edge, Shamion fell to the court in obvious pain. The gymnasium fell silent as West Iron’s returning all-U.P. Division 1-3 first teamer lay with her legs extended and shaking.
Turns out, Shamion rolled her ankle and was able to return to action in the third quarter. But even the thought of life without Danica Shamion brought the West Iron faithful to shock.
“We’re not the same team when she’s not on the court,” her father Eric said.
When Shamion returned three minutes into the third quarter, she looked hobbled at first, but seemed to settle back in shortly after.
And if anyone in the gym thought the four-year starter would play tentatively, well …
“Danica doesn’t know how to play half speed,” Coach Shamion said. “She never has, but at the same time, she’s a smart kid, she’s played a lot of different sports, she knows her body so she knows when she is pushing too much.
“We just kind of saw the warrior that Danica is tonight.”
After a 3-point second quarter that left them behind 25-17 at the break, the Mountaineers took the lid off the hoop on a layup and two free throws by junior Macy Linsenbigler and a layup and a triple by Copley to cut the deficit to 32-29 after three quarters.
“I was just telling them to keep the energy up and keep good communication out there,” Ellis said of the message to her team as it fell behind in the second. “Just keep talking, keep shooting and keep going. And we did.”
Nevertheless, the Wykons were able to maintain their footing in the fourth due to a balanced attack. Senior Haiden Gill scored four of her 10 points in the final eight minutes, while Kaitlyn Smith knocked down her third triple of the game. Shamion, Sidney Storti and Seanna Stine recorded a bucket each as West Iron held on for the win.
Coach Shamion said Gill’s return after missing her junior season is important to his team’s prospects this year.
“She’s going to be a big factor this year and she’s going to be a big part in determining if our team is successful because she can help us in several different ways,” he said.
Meanwhile, in her fourth season as the WIC floor leader, Danica has grown from a talented, skinny and deferential freshman on her older sister Jordan’s team to the clear and forceful leader of the Wykons.
“I’ve been through three different groups now and I think that this is a good group,” Danica Shamion said. “I think we just need to continue to work hard, and we can build a really good team out of this one.”
On the other side, Ellis said her team’s work in the offseason is apparent.
“The girls hit the weight room this summer and worked a lot on footwork and agility,” she said. “And the ones that put in the work this summer, you can definitely see an improvement.”
The Mountaineers will host Gwinn on Friday, while the Wykons will travel to Calumet.