By BURT ANGELI
NORWAY - Red-hot Austin Waara and a much-improved defense vaulted West Iron County past Iron Mountain 63-53 in a Class C District 95 boys basketball semifinal Monday.
Burt Angeli/The Daily News Photo
West Iron County’s Austin Waara shoots over Iron Mountain’s Gerry Pirkola, Taylor Huotari, Jake Thomann (30) and Paul Brooks (22) in a Class C District 95 semifinal Monday at Norway. Waara’s 20 points helped lift the Wykons past the Mountaineers 63-53.
Waara produced 20 points, six assists and three steals for the Wykons (14-7), who will meet district host Norway at 6 p.m. Wednesday for the title.
Waara, a senior point guard, scored eight points when the Wykons posted a 34-24 halftime lead. He converted six of seven free throws in the final three minutes to help the Wykons pull away from a 51-51 deadlock.
"Jimmer (Waara) was sizzling, bacon-sizzling," said Wykons coach Dan Schive. "He hit his first three shots and was feeling it.
"This was a hard, well played game that came down to who had the desire to get a rebound and play 'D' (defense)."
Adam Newby and Andy Ridolphi each chipped in 12 points for the Wykons, who gave up 92 points to Ishpeming in the regular season finale.
Taylor Huotari canned 19 points for the Mountaineers (14-7) and Luke Zambon added 14 with 11 rebounds.
"West Iron shot the heck out of it," Mountaineers coach Bucky Johnson said. "To our kids credit they were down (12 points) in the second half, expended a lot of energy and we're able to get back in the game.
"The kids didn't quit. They just couldn't get over the hump."
Huotari collected 10 points in the final six minutes of the third quarter to slice the Wykon lead to 45-42. Gerry Pirkola popped in a triple when Iron Mountain rallied for a 51-51 deadlock at 3:20 of the fourth quarter.
Johnson credited Iron Mountain's pressure into forcing bad shots for the turnaround. Schive said his Wykons got "stagnant" offensively.
"We got to the point where we were bringing the ball up the middle of the floor, stopping and all of a sudden everybody was waiting for Jimmer to do something," Schive said. "When we get stagnant offensively, we get stagnant defensively. We had to get back into the movement because we're not a stand team. We have to be running."
After a Zambon basket with 2:25 remaining, Iron Mountain was shut out the rest of the way.
"Give West Iron credit," Johnson said. "They made tough shots and played good enough defense to hold us to 53 points."
The coach also noted West Iron torched the Mountaineers' 43.3 points per game defensive mark.
West Iron, which opened the fourth quarter with 45 points, converted 10 free throws in the final 2:36.
"The whole second half key was communication on defense and who wants to get that rebound," Schive said.
West Iron 18 16 11 18 - 63
Iron Mountain 17 7 18 11 - 53
WEST IRON COUNTY: Ralston 1, Pisoni 6, Adam Newby 12, Rogers 7, Waara 20, Hopkins 5, Ridolphi 12. FT: 14-22. F: 15.
IRON MOUNTAIN: Huotari 19, Pirkola 6, Brooks 4, Thomann 8, Zambon 14, Caudell 2. FT: 8-15. F: 21. Fouled out: Pirkola (:27, 4th), Huotari (:11, 4th).
3-point FG: Huotari 3, Pirkola 2, Newby 2, Rogers 1. FG shooting: WIC 23-51, IM 20-68. Reb: WIC 30 (Ridolphi 6, Stafford 6) IM 35 (Zambon 11, Brooks 7).