Rivalry renewed: Poupore’s 3 lifts Jets over Knights in overtime
NORWAY — North Central and Norway renewed their rivalry Thursday after a 22-year separation.
It was worth the wait.
Jets senior Austin Poupore drilled a three-pointer at the buzzer in overtime to stun the Knights 65-63 in a non-conference game played between Skyline Central Conference teams.
Connor Ortman spearheaded the Knights (1-2) with 30 points, 12 rebounds, five steals and four assists. Senior Lucas Dombrowski led the Jets (4-1) with 23 points.
“This was an exciting win for the program,” said NC head coach Adam Mercier, who experienced some excitement over the past three seasons with Class D state championships. “This is as exciting as they come.”
Deadlocked at 54-all after regulation, Norway started overtime with a 9-2 run. North Central rolled 9-0 over the final two minutes.
“For those guys to capture their moment tonight, that’s great to see,” said Mercier, who lost the starting five from last year to graduation. “These kids enjoy a moment like that. Not just to be a part of it but to make their own moment. That was pretty special.”
Norway, coming off a tough loss to Iron Mountain, carved out a 10-point halftime lead Thursday. The Knights also claimed a halftime edge on the Mountaineers.
“Once again we came out fast in the first half,” said first-year Knights coach Jeff Gallino. “We talked at halftime about opening up the third quarter. We haven’t been able to play two halves of basketball yet.”
North Central sliced the difference to 39-37 after three quarters. The Jets soared to a 50-43 advantage in the fourth after an 11-0 surge — four each from senior Lucas Dombrowski and senior Ben Snyder and three from sophomore Noah Gorzinski.
“We had a lot of grit, a lot of determination, and a couple good bounces here and there,” Mercier said of the comeback. “We executed our offense better towards the middle of the fourth quarter to get back in this game.”
Norway answered with an 11-4 run over the final three minutes of the fourth quarter. Ortman scored 11 fourth-quarter points including the final seven. The senior’s steal and bucket with 21 seconds left knotted the game at 54 and forced overtime.
In overtime, Dombrowski hit a pair of free throws and Norway followed with seven straight Ortman markers and a Josh Plante steal at 2:26 for a 63-56 lead. That was the end of Norway’s scoring.
Back-to-back Dombrowski baskets triggered North Central’s rally. Gorzinski scored with 56 seconds left to close the gap to 63-62.
“In overtime we did turn them over a few times and we took advantage of their mistakes,” Mercier said.
In the final seconds, Norway stuffed one in-bounds play where Knights sophomore Kody Hendricks grabbed the rebound and made contact with a North Central player. A traveling violation then gave the Jets another chance with 1.7 seconds remaining. North Central didn’t have a timeout to set up Poupore’s game-winner.
“They executed it well,” Mercier said. “We had a nice screen, set pass was delivered well and Austin shot it with confidence,” Mercier said. “We have kids that we trust shooting the ball and Austin is one of them. Our seniors did a great job of carrying us tonight.”
Gallino thought Hendricks had secured the rebound before Poupore had his opportunity for heroics.
“The kid hit an unbelievable shot,” Gallino said. “You can’t take it away from him. Coach Mercier does an amazing job with that group.”
Gorzinski finished with 14 points and Snyder had 10 for the Jets, who shot 52 percent from the floor. Knights’ Jordan Reich had 11 points with four assists. Micah Wilson chipped in 10 points. Josh Plante had six assists.
Gallino said turnovers proved costly. Suspect shot selection was another problem.
“We needed to take our time and make good decisions,” Gallino said. “We didn’t do that tonight. We just have to play smarter basketball. This could be a real good team once we put it all together.”
The Knights travel to North Dickinson on Thursday, Dec. 28. The Jets visit Superior Central on Tuesday, Jan. 2.
Norway defeated North Central in the junior varsity game.
North Central 13 10 14 17 11 — 65
Norway 19 14 6 15 9 — 63
NORTH CENTRAL (65): Schaff 4, Gorzinski 14, Holle 2, Dombrowski 23, Poupore 8, Eichmeier 4, Snyder 10. FT: 6-7. F: 14. 3-point FG: Gorzinski 4, Dombrowski, Poupore 2. FG shooting: 26-50. Rebounds: 27.
NORWAY (63): Wilson 10, Plante 2, Reich 11, Boulden 4, Hendricks 6, Ortman 30. FT: 8-16. F: 12. 3-point FG: Wilson, Ortman. FG shooting: 26-55. Rebounds: 25 (Ortman 12).