Boys basketball regional preview: Mountaineers, Patriots to meet for third time
Class C Region 24
Monday, March 12
Iron Mountain (21-1) vs. Westwood (12-9), 5:30 p.m. (Eastern time)
Indian River Inland Lakes (15-7) vs. Calumet (17-5), 7:30 p.m.
Class D Region 32
Monday, March 12
Carney-Nadeau (15-7) vs. Ewen-Trout Creek (22-1), 5 p.m.
Rapid River (19-3) vs. Dollar Bay (23-0), 7 p.m.
Westwood needed a last-second shot to set up a third meeting this season with Iron Mountain.
Westwood junior forward Blake Hewitt hit a putback jumper at the buzzer to lift the Patriots past Ishpeming 54-53 for a Class C district title Friday.
Iron Mountain (21-1) and Westwood (12-9) will meet Monday night in Marquette to open the Class C Region 24 tournament. Indian River Inland Lakes (15-7) faces Calumet (17-5) in the other semifinal.
“It’s March Madness,” said Westwood Coach Chad Hewitt. “This is one of the best games I’ve ever been a part of. I’ve been coaching basketball for the last 12 or 14 years and this may be the best ending to a basketball game that I’ve been a part of as a coach.”
Ishpeming (15-7), which handed Iron Mountain its only loss this season, held a 53-46 lead with 1:36 left in the game. The Hematites then missed four free-throw attempts.
With 8.1 seconds remaining, Westwood closed to 53-52 after sophomore guard Taylor Dellangelo converted three free throws after being fouled from behind the arc.
Hewitt rebounded a missed shot from Nathan Beckman and scored the game-winner.
“It took a bad bounce off the rim, and luckily it just came my way, I got my hands on it and got a shot off,” Hewitt said.
Junior guard Beckman and soph guard Dellangelo scored 16 points apiece for Westwood.
The Mountaineers defeated Westwood twice in the regular season.
In the first meeting on the Patriots’ floor, a Marcus Johnson bucket sent the Mountaineers to a 40-38 win in overtime. David Delarye led Westwood with 20.
In a late January rematch, Johnson scored 34 points and freshman Foster Wonders added 16 in a 60-44 decision. Charlie Gerhard checked Delarye to six points.
Mountaineers coach Bucky Johnson noted that Westwood likes to control tempo, and that wasn’t the case in the second Mid-Peninsula Conference meeting.
Marcus Johnson’s 28 points — 21 in the second half — triggered Iron Mountain past West Iron County 61-46 in the district finals.
“They’re just a better team than we are,” said WIC Coach Dan Schive. “Some of those shots that Johnson made, you have to live with them.
“You have to hope you have enough answers on the other end when you’re hitting hanging triples and long triples. We just didn’t have enough answers. My guys played as hard as they could.”
West Iron’s defensive strategy was to play a reverse triangle-and-two and force Johnson “to go right as much as possible.”
Schive noted the district final was a battle, with two of his players suffering bloody noses and one with a hyper-extended elbow.
“Not that it mattered but I thought it was a little too physical for a district final,” Schive said. “But that’s the way it is.”
Calumet, which shared the West PAC title with the Wykons, enters the regional for the third straight year after beating Houghton 63-41.
“In the past two seasons, it felt a little bit overpowering going to regionals, but this year I know that we can do stuff,” said Calumet junior Matt Ojala, West PAC Player of the Year. “Most teams don’t get much respect up here. We gotta go down to regionals and show them that we can play.”
Ojala set Calumet’s single-season scoring record with 445 points after he scored 16 against Houghton.
“He puts a ton of time in,” Calumet coach Mike Ojala said. “What he does for our offense is exceptional in that he can score the way he does while still creating for others.”
Kings senior Cooper Twardzik added 17 points and seven rebounds.
“Matt Ojala is probably one of the best point guards in the U.P., and he’s going to break you down, and he did that to us,” said Houghton Coach Jared Lawson.
Indian River Inland Lakes is making its first appearance in a Class C regional tournament. Although the Bulldogs did win a Class D district in 1988.
IRIL rallied from a 17-point second-quarter deficit to beat district host Harbor Springs 70-60.
“It’s a dream, but this is a dream team,” said first-year IRIL coach Lee Nash. “I coached a lot of these kids and freshmen and sophomores and I’ve been licking my chops at coaching them again because they’re such great kids that love to play basketball and they’ve come together at the right time.”
Cleveland Baker the Bulldogs with 25 points. They converted 29 of 32 free throws in the final.
Regional semifinal winners will clash Wednesday. The quarterfinal will be staged at Petoskey.
CLASS D REGIONAL
Thanks to Carney-Nadeau, Michigan Class D basketball will have a new state champion.
The Wolves stopped three-time defending state champion North Central 53-40 for their first district title since 2012.
“Everybody is there for each other,” said Carney coach Jacob Polfus. “You can tell the chemistry is building on the bench, on the floor and they trust each other. I’m just so proud of them. I’m so happy, the emotions are crazy.”
CN’s Preston Lauscher scored 20 of his game-high 29 points in the second half.
Class D Region 32 starts Monday night in Negaunee, with the Wolves (15-7) and Ewen-Trout Creek (22-1) meeting in the first semifinal and Rapid River (19-3) taking on Dollar Bay (23-0) in the second.
ETC repeated as district champs after beating Wakefield-Marenisco 49-21.
“I tell you what, after the first three quarters Monday night, this one feels amazing,” said ETC coach Brad Besonen in referring to an overtime win against Forest Park. “I was writing our will halfway through that fourth because we couldn’t get anything going. It’s a good opponent. And we had that bout of sickness. It was just a bad, bad situation. They found a way to get out of that and here they are.”
Jake Witt paced the Panthers with 21 points and 14 boards.
“That’s all I got to say is Jake Witt, how do you stop him?” WM Coach Terry Fetters said. “We tried doubling him, we tried tripling him. And the shooters they have, they’re almost impossible to guard, they really are, for us anyways, we’re not a very big team, we’re not very fast.”
The 6-foot-7 senior bound for Michigan Tech quieted Bessemer’s House of Noise in a 66-53 district semi win. Witt shot 75 percent on mid-range and 3-point shots, a combined 9 of 12. He also scored 36 points, grabbed 16 rebounds and blocked 10 shots.
“Jake’s a great player and unfortunately a great atmosphere oftentimes boils that blood in the great players,” Bessemer coach Richard Matrella said.
Added Besonen: “He’s really unguardable when he shoots like that from the perimeter.”
Rapid River returns to the regional after pulling away in the second half to beat Mid Peninsula 54-40 in the district final. The Rockets managed a 26-24 halftime lead.
“I challenged our guys to pick up their intensity in the second half,” said RR Coach Rich Poma. “I told the seniors to be the leaders they are. Maybe the boys didn’t know it, but you can’t count Mid Pen out of anything. Mark (Branstrom) is an outstanding coach. He always has his kids ready.”
Logan Hardwick led the Rockets with 17 points and 14 rebounds. Lucas Sundling added 10 points and four steals and Tyler Sundling had 10 points.
“Hardwick was very hard to stop,” said Branstrom. “They’re a very physical team and we’re not made for that. Rich has a real nice team.”
Unbeaten Dollar Bay, which nearly upset North Central in last year’s regional, thumped Ontonagon 69-46 for the Class D District 128 championship.
“They’re 23-0 for a reason,” Ontonagon coach Andy Borseth said. “We needed them to be a little off, and they weren’t. I could see them pushing this thing a couple more rounds and maybe getting downstate.”
Dollar Bay, ranked No. 1 in the UP and No. 2 in the state, shot 54 percent from the floor in dispatching the Gladiators. Ontonagon had a 35 percent field-goal mark and 11 first-half turnovers when the Blue Bolts owned a 41-20 cushion.
“The goal for this game was to amp up the pressure,” Coach Jesse Kentala said. “We wanted to play full court. We wanted to speed their guards up and put on more pressure than usual. We wanted them moving 100 miles per hour in the zone, hoping they make mistakes.”
Jaden Janke led the Blue Bolts with 22 points.
“We rarely got it to the posts,” Borseth said. “We had a hard time getting a good shot off, let alone getting it into the post. It got ugly, fast.”
Regional champion will be determined Wednesday, with the winner to Escanaba for the quarterfinal.
“We had a good showing last year and didn’t win,” Kentala said of threatening North Central. “This year it’s about going down there and winning. That was our goal right from the get-go, to get back to that region and win that region. That’s been our goal from Day 1.”
(The Mining Journal, The Daily Press, The Mining Gazette, WIKB Radio and Petoskey News Review contributed to this story)