Mountaineers beat Detroit Edison PSA, advance to state final
The Mountaineers (27-0) defeated Detroit Edison PSA 60-57 for a MHSAA Division 3 state finals berth.
The Mountaineers will face Pewamo-Westphalia at 4:30 p.m. EDT for the state championship. Pewamo-Westphalia beat Erie-Mason in the other semifinal, 60-45.
Saturday will be Iron Mountain’s first state finals appearance since winning it all in 1939.
As they have all year, Foster Wonders and Marcus Johnson led the Mountaineers with big shots and free throws in key moments. Wonders and Johnson finished with 28 and 23 points, respectively.
Wonders received a pass and immediately knocked down a 3-pointer to give Iron Mountain a 52-44 lead with 1:55 left in the game.
“I’ve got faith in my guys. I honestly wasn’t really expecting it,” Iron Mountain head coach Bucky Johnson said of Wonders’ trey. “But shooters shoot and makers make. I’ve got some guys on this team that at crunch time are makers. That was a big one, that was awesome. It went down.”
Detroit PSA (19-8), noted for its rebounding prowess, outrebounded Iron Mountain 36-28, but foul trouble for Bryce George kept the Pioneers from hitting a higher gear. The Pioneers scored 10 points in the paint and had six rebounds in the first two minutes of the game.
Detroit Edison coach Brandon Neely said the Mountaineers’ defense stepped up with improved man-to-man play than he saw against Meridian on Tuesday.
“They defended a lot better than I anticipated,” Neely said. “I watched them play Meridian. I just didn’t think they defended them well man to man. Today they had a better game. It was tough for us to get to the basket. We started to get there towards the end of the game.
“They did a good job packing the paint and keeping us away from the basket. We really just attacked the paint and shoot threes. We shoot maybe 10 to 12 threes a game. Everything goes into the paint. When you make it tough for us to get in there, that’s a great gameplan for us.”
George was whistled for charges on Iron Mountain’s Charlie Gerhard in the first quarter. George came out of the game with 2:33 left in the first quarter and didn’t return until the start of the second half. Despite missing significant time on the court, he still finished with eight points and six rebounds.
“These guys battled. Holy crumps those guys can rebound,” Johnson said of the Pioneers. “They’re athletic, they’re long. That’s the biggest team we’ve played. They scrapped but I thought we scrapped. We did a much better job in the second half and it was big that the guy got in foul trouble. We talked about that before the game in the scouting report. That was critical.”
The Mountaineers built a 10-point lead in the third quarter with a 3-pointer by Wonders. Edison cut the lead to seven before Johnson knocked down a 3-pointer to bring it back to 10, and did the same nearly a minute later.
Edison went to a fullcourt press to start the fourth and Iron Mountain’s lead dwindled to two points with a 3-pointer by Ralph Johnson. A triple by Brian Taylor made it a 45-44 game with 3:26.
Then the Mountaineers essentially won the game from the free-throw line. Wonders went 6 for 6 from the line in the final three minutes of the game. Johnson was 4 for 4 from the line in the same time to keep the lead at six points. Edison’s Johnson hit a 3-pointer with four seconds left and the horn sounded as the Mountaineers celebrated in the middle of the court.
Iron Mountain trailed 20-19 at halftime after Jake Dumais got two rebounds and scored a layup just before the buzzer. Dumais finished with three points and four rebounds in just four minutes of playing time. He was the only player to come off the Mountaineers’ bench.
“He made some nice plays for us, got some rebounds,” Johnson said. “Does a nice job.”
Neely lauded Iron Mountain’s lineup.
“You saw how many guys I threw at them. Those guys just continued that pace,” Neely said. “Foster Wonders, what a player he is. The guy stepped to the free-throw line and was 9 for 10 from the free-throw line. His little buddy guard was 6 for 6. Those guys pretty much came out and played like champions and they played like a team that wanted to win today.”
The Mountaineers met with Iron Mountain native and Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo on Wednesday evening. Izzo gave the team a tour of the Spartans’ facility and spent about an hour and a half with the team.
On Thursday morning, the Mountaineers sat in on a Spartans practice at the Breslin Center before MSU departed for Chicago to play in the Big Ten tournament on Friday.
Izzo left his alma mater with some advice before leaving.
“Coach Izzo told us ‘Some people like it, some people love it and some people live it,'” Marcus Johnson recalled of the team meeting with Izzo. “We want to live it. It’s just an awesome feeling to get to the championship and hopefully we can bring it home.”
Detroit Edison PSA 14 6 14 23 — 57
Iron Mountain 7 12 22 19 — 60
DETROIT EDISON PSA (57): Johnson 14, Taylor 11, Flaniken 9, Williams 8, George 8, McCadoo 3, Cooley 2, Millener 1, Powell 1. FT: 7-11. F: 18. FG: 22-59. 3PT: 6-19 (Taylor 3, Johnson 2, McCadoo 1). Rebounds: 36 (Taylor 7). Assists: 6 (Millener 3). Turnovers: 15. Steals: 7 (Flaniken 4). Blocks: Taylor 2, Hughes 2, Williams 1.
IRON MOUNTAIN (60): Wonders 28, Johnson 23, Vicenzi 4, Dumais 3, Feira 2. FT: 16-18. F: 7. FG: 18-44. 3PT: 8-21 (Johnson 5, Wonders 3). Rebounds: 28 (Johnson 6, Gerhard 6). Assists: 8 (Gerhard 3). Turnovers: 15. Steals: 6 (Gerhard 2, Dumais 2). Blocks: Gerhard 3.