By RON DEUTER
IRON MOUNTAIN - A big first half run provided just enough cushion for Iron Mountain to hold off Kingsford 50-44 in an intense and physical rivalry boys basketball clash Tuesday at the Mountaineer Gymnasium.
Theresa Proudfit/The Daily News Photo
Iron Mountain’s Ryan Ducharme goes to the hoop past Kingsford’s Dan Harrington (22) and Reid Berndt (33) during Tuesday’s non-conference action.
"I thought we played a great first half," Mountaineers coach Bucky Johnson said. "Jack Merrill got us off to a tremendous start."
Merrill scored 13 of his game-high 20 points in the first half, igniting the Mountaineers to a 27-6 run that turned an early Kingsford lead into an 18-point IM advantage right before half.
"He stepped up big time and that was really nice to see," Johnson said.
Zach Caudell added 10 points for Iron Mountain (5-3), and Ryan Ducharme chipped in 10 more off the bench, collecting six during the Mountaineers' first-half push and four more at the line during crunch time late in the fourth quarter.
The game came down to free throws during the final few minutes, as Kingsford manage to close the gap to seven with about three minutes left and forced Iron Mountain to protect its lead at the stripe.
Iron Mountain hit just 16-of-32 at the line for the game but closed by connecting on 10-of-16 during the final three minutes.
"At halftime we talked about how we would handle a Kingsford run, because we knew they would make one" Johnson said. "Give them credit, they had guys come off the bench and hit some shots. We let them dribble penetrate against us. And we fouled way too much.
"For the most part though, we handled their run well."
The Flivvers sliced three off of the Mountaineers' lead in the third quarter, getting a quick four points at the end of the period with a layup by Joe Gregory immediately followed by a steal and quick bucket by Jack Glodowski.
The Flivvers continued to push into the fourth, scoring eight of the first 10 points. A three by Joe Hofer made it a seven-point game at 40-33 with 2:53 to play.
"We got down early," Flivvers coach Dan Olkkonen said. "Both teams were aggressive, both teams battled hard. Their so big and long, and they go so hard. It makes it difficult.
"We at least battled back in the second half, but we can't wait until the fourth quarter when we're down by that much of a deficit."
Dan Harrington's 14 points led Kingsford, 12 of those coming in the second half. Glodowski scored 12 to join Harrington in double figures. He scored eight of those in the fourth, including a final bucket at the horn. Hofer threw in eight points off the bench.
Kingsford began fouling after Hofer's three, but couldn't get any closer than six. Caudell made good on a pair at the line. Ducharme and Merrill both added four made freebies, supplying just enough to prevent wasting the superb first half.
"That second quarter was great," Johnson said. "It was a team effort there, and that's what we need more of. We need some balance."
Johnson said the Mountaineers could have possibly made things a little easier on themselves by slowing the pace more in the second half.
"There were some times where we went down way too fast," he said. "We didn't need to do that. We've got to know the situation of the game. We have to learn, when we have a lead like that, to milk the clock a little better."
For Kingsford's part, the comeback attempt could have been aided with a better performance at the foul line. The Flivvers (1-5) were 11-for-24 from the stripe.
Kingsford shot just 16 percent in the first half, struggling to adjust to the Mountaineers zone defense.
"We forced shots in the first half," Olkkonen said. "We took more bad shots in that first half than we have all year. Understanding the situation is something we have to do better at. You have to work it, have chemistry with each other. We haven't found that yet.
"We have some tough games coming up and we have to change some of the things we do. And we can. I believe in these guys."
The game featured nearly 50 fouls, with many of Kingsford's 26 occurring in the fourth quarter.
"It was just a tough battle" Johnson said. "I think our zone bothered them. It was our length versus their speed, and when we went man, they blew right by us. The speed factor was something we had to contend with. Our defense was good tonight."
Carson Wonders scored 22 points, and Tanner Huotari added 15 more in Iron Mountain's 55-42 jayvee win. The Flivvers took the freshmen game 51-38.
Iron Mountain heads to Manistique Thursday. Kingsford hosts North Dickinson Friday.
Kingsford 7 6 12 19 - 44
Iron Mountain 12 17 9 12 - 50
KINGSFORD: Jennings 3, Voss 4, Harrington 14, Glodowski 12, Hofer 8, Stanchina 1, Gregory 2. FT: 11-24. F: 26.
IRON MOUNTAIN: Beauchamp 6, Grenier 2, Merrill 20, Caudell 10, Rossato 2, Ducharme 10. FT: 16-32. F: 23. Fouled Out: Caudell. Technical: Thomann.
FG shooting - K: 15-53 (3-pt: 3-23); IM: 16-44 (3-pt: 2-9). 3-pt FGs - K: Hofer (2), Harrington; IM: Merrill (2).