By RON DEUTER
IRON MOUNTAIN - Iron Mountain threatened upset of the top team in the U.P. for three quarters in a heated Mid-Peninsula boys basketball game Tuesday night, but Negaunee took control in the final frame and ran away with a 67-43 victory, giving the Miners at least a share of the league title.
Tyler Windahl's 3-pointer out of the corner at the third-quarter buzzer broke a 42-42 tie and Negaunee pushed the accelerator down from there, scoring 22 more and holding the Mountaineers to a single free throw during the final eight minutes.
"I thought we started playing basketball," Miners head coach Mike O'Donnell said. "At points in the game, we got too caught up in the extracurricular stuff, too concerned with things that weren't basketball related. When we stayed mentally strong and played basketball, we did some nice things."
Although Iron Mountain was whistled for 23 fouls to Negaunee's 12 in what was a physical contest up and down the floor both ways, it was four in the first quarter to 2013 U.P. Dream Team pick Tyler Jandron that elevated emotions initially on the Miners' side - leaving the visitors scrambling for a new floor leader.
Jandron's fourth foul was actually a technical as he uttered something out of frustration on his way to the bench after being called for his third personal that caught the ear of one of the officials.
With Jandron out and Iron Mountain hanging around, the intensity on the floor only heightened between the two teams that could potentially meet a third time this season if both make it through their respective district tournaments.
Negaunee, even with Eric Lori providing 10 of his game-high 19 points in the second quarter held just a three-point lead at half. Iron Mountain followed with its best quarter of the game in the third.
The chippiness of the contest reached its height with the teams deadlocked at 39 late in the third. A little after-the-whistle shoving led to Iron Mountain's Zach Caudell picking up his fifth foul and Negaunee's Lori whistled for a technical.
Caudell was heating up for Iron Mountain at the time, scoring five of his seven in the quarter before leaving the game.
Tanner Huotari, who led IM with 14 points, put the Mountaineers up by a point after making one of two following the Miner technical. But Windahl's triple at the end of the quarter swiftly shifted the momentum back to the Miners.
"They obviously had a big run in the fourth quarter," Mountaineers coach Bucky Johnson said. "It was a tight game up to that point proud of my kids for how hard they played, I mean, they played really hard. They competed, and that was one of our goals going into the game.
"Give Negaunee credit. They really took control in that fourth quarter, made some plays,made some passes, hit some shots. We weren't able to do that."
Jandron, re-entering the game after halftime and lasting until about two minutes left to play before fouling out, managed 14 points in his limited action, 12 of those in the second half.
"Losing our four-year starter like that, being on the road, it could have been a dangerous situation," O'Donnell said. We battled through it, weathered the storm. Our other guys got us through it, playing even with them. Going into half with even just the three-point lead was huge."
If anything, O'Donnell was glad a game as tense as this was for three quarters occurred so close to tournament play.
"Hopefully we learned some lessons of what it takes to fight through the hardships of a game," he said. "We have to be mentally strong to get through them. If we do get into these situations in March, hopefully we're a little smarter and do things a little differently."
The Miners, with two games left to play before districts, improved to 17-1. Iron Mountain is done with regular-season play at 9-10.
"All throughout the final stretch of the season we've been talking about the competition we've faced," Johnson said. "We've gone up against the top three teams in the U.P., and it's forced us to play hard. And we have to play hard like that because teams in the district are going to play just as tough.
"I think our kids have responded. I'm proud of the way these guys have competed. We still have our number one goal in sight and we have to be ready because we know West Iron County will be ready and we're expecting a tough battle."
Iron Mountain opens district play against the Wykons at Iron River Monday night.
"Iron Mountain battled us twice now," O'Donnell said. "They're a team gaining some confidence down the stretch. They are going to be a force to be reckoned with, a tough out for sure."
Iron Mountain's jayvees, getting 18 points from Kyle Johnson and 15 from Ryan Michaud defeated Negaunee 50-47. The IM frosh lost 39-30.
Negaunee 10 15 20 22 - 67
Iron Mountain 13 11 18 1 - 43
NEGAUNEE: Radloff 5, Tasson 1, E. Lori 19, Luke 1, Jandron 14, Anderson 3, J. Lori 9, Loy 7, Windahl 5, Lindblom 3. FT: 15-21. F: 12. FO: Jandron.
IRON MOUNTAIN: Grenier 5, Caudell 7, Thomann 4, Rossato 4, Ducharme 6, Huotari 14, Wonders 3. FT: 5-8. F: 23. FO: Caudell.
FG shooting - N: 23-42; IM: 17-33. 3-pt FGs - N: E. Lori (2), Jandron, Anderson, Loy, Windahl; IM: Ducharme (2), Grenier. Rebounding - N: 25 (Radloff 10); IM: 20 (Huotari 5, Wonders 5).