By BURT ANGELI
NORWAY - Norway, an unlikely district finalist when sizing up Class C District 95, knocked off Stephenson 51-41 in a boys basketball tourney opener Monday.
Burt Angeli/The Daily News Photo
Norway’s Dan Bal (21) races past Stephenson’s Levi Brock (1) during a Class C District 95 basketball semifinal Monday. The Knights, behind Isaac Bray’s 20 points and John Grayvold’s 18, clipped the Eagles 51-41.
The Knights (6-13) and West Iron County (14-7), a 63-53 winner over Iron Mountain in the other district semifinal Monday, will clash at 6 p.m. Wednesday for the title and berth in the regional.
Norway snapped out of a shooting funk and ended an eight-game losing streak just last week.
"We competed with all three (district) schools at least in one game," said Coach Ben Leiker, whose Knights lost to Stephenson 48-45 in February. "So there was some confidence.
"We're starting to shoot the ball. Games are different when you make shots."
Norway's zone defense checked Stephenson to 13 points and four field goals in the first half. The Eagles improved in the second half, closing a 12-point deficit to four in the final minute.
"We obviously didn't shoot very well," said Stephenson Coach Kurt Wangerin, noting a 23-percent shooting mark from the floor. "I thought the boys hustled.
"Give Norway credit. They shot well. They played well. They didn't shoot good in the second half but they shot extremely well in the first half."
Isaac Bray socked Stephenson for a second time. The Knights senior guard bagged 18 in the first game and came back with a season-high 20 on Monday with four triples (three first half). John Grayvold tacked on 18 for the Knights.
"Friday, Saturday and Sunday we worked on zone offense," said the normally defense-minded Leiker. "I really can't tell you if I've done that before in my coaching career.
"I've always been let's stop this, let's stop that. That wasn't working this year because we couldn't score enough. Even when we kept a team down, we couldn't score enough."
Austin Grinsteiner, playing with a broken big toe, led the Eagles with 12 points. Travis Wangerin tallied 11 points, eight rebounds and five steals. Kyle Raboin, who missed the past couple games with a hand injury and was questionable for the district, contributed nine points and six assists.
"We've got some players injured and that doesn't help," coach Wangerin said. "Our defense was a little slower on the shift (because of the injuries).
"Kyle played real well with his hand and the conditions. His shot obviously was off but he probably scored as many as he normally scores."
Norway, after a Bray basket at 7:22 of the fourth quarter, held a 41-31 advantage. Stephenson rallied to within 45-41 with 48 seconds left on five points from Wangerin.
The Knights hung on from there with Austin Grayvold draining four straight free throws and brother John adding two.
"Overall, we did a pretty nice job," Leiker said. "We couldn't get it inside a whole lot but we were able to make some outside shots."
Stephenson also controlled the boards with 33 - 12 from Casey Wilson. But Leiker gave his team the edge in tracking down loose balls and reducing turnovers from the first meeting.
"We have a hard time rebounding and it shows at times," Leiker said. "But we were getting to a lot of loose balls.
"I thought our kids really played hard. We're under sized in a lot of positions
and we have to scrap. If we don't get to loose balls, we don't have a chance because we're not going to get a ton of rebounds."
Norway lost to West Iron twice this season including a 62-27 drubbing at home last month.
"It's going to take an even better effort than we had tonight (to beat West Iron)," Leiker said. "In the last game it's not like we gave up. They drilled us."
Austin Waara scored 20 points in the Wykons' district win over the Mountaineers. The senior marksman nailed five triples en route to a 21-point game in the regular season test with Norway.
"We have to try to contain Waara because he's a phenomenal basketball player," Leiker said. "It's fun to watch but it's not going to be fun to watch Wednesday."
Stephenson 6 7 17 11 - 41
Norway 10 12 17 12 - 51
STEPHENSON: Brock 3, Raboin 9, Wangerin 11, Wilson 6, Grinsteiner 12. FT: 6-10. F: 13. Fouled out: Brock (:16, 4th).
NORWAY: A. Grayvold 7, Zygiel 2, Bal 4, Bray 20, Grayvold 18. FT: 10-12. F: 13.
3-point FG: Bray 4, Grayvold 3, Brock, Raboin, Wangerin 3, Grinsteiner. FG shooting: Norway 17 made, Stephenson 13-55. Rebounding: Stephenson 33 (Wilson 12, Wangerin 8).