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Menifield, Bucs dash IM’s state title hopes

Mountaineers fall 75-47 in Division 3 championship clash

Iron Mountain’s Foster Wonders (00) goes up for a shot, defended by Flint Beecher’s Keyon Menifield Jr. (2), during Saturday’s MHSAA Division 3 championship game. Menifield scored 37 points to lead the Bucs to a 75-47 win at the Breslin Center in East Lansing. (Jason Juno photo)

EAST LANSING — Iron Mountain’s bid for the MHSAA Division 3 state championship came up short Saturday as Flint Beecher cruised to a 75-47 win at the Jack Breslin Student Events Center at Michigan State University.

While the Mountaineers were back in the state finals for the second time in the past three years — the second straight, considering the 2020 championships were canceled due to the pandemic –Flint Beecher came in having earned five state basketball titles since 2012.

Bucs senior Keyon Menifield Jr. poured in a game-high 37 points, with incredible athleticism and confidence, to give Beecher its sixth championship in less than a decade’s time.

“I am very proud of our kids. I think they represented themselves, our community and the entire Upper Peninsula with class and they worked hard,” Iron Mountain head coach Harvey “Bucky” Johnson said. “Not many kids and teams get to play here, and we feel very blessed to have done so. The kids never gave up. They kept pushing and encouraging one another until the end of the game.”

It was apparent early that the Bucs’ defensive strategy was to smother Iron Mountain senior Foster Wonders, double-teaming him from the very first possession until the final horn sounded.

“That was our game plan, limit Wonders as much as we could, and make the other guys on their team beat us,” veteran Beecher head coach Mike Williams said. “We knew with as exceptional of a player as Foster is, basically our best offense had to be a strong defense — and then let our offense develop off of that.

“We had to neutralize Foster Wonders to have a chance today — that kid can play,” Williams emphasized. “I’d buy a ticket to watch him play, which is the ultimate compliment anyone can give a player.”

Beecher’s game plan worked out almost perfectly: Wonders, who averages nearly 35 points a game, was held scoreless until the 2:35 mark of the third stanza.

“Our kids fought, they executed our game plan and they prepared and I couldn’t be more proud,” Williams said. “Our game plan was a bit of a gamble, but our kids came to play today.”

Along with keeping Wonders in check, the Bucs’ half-court and almost full-court pressure caused the Mountaineers to turn over the basketball, leading to a handful of transition buckets for Beecher.

Behind eight points from Menifield, the Bucs went on a 13-0 run the last three-plus minutes of the first quarter. Beecher’s lead grew to 31-15 with 2:15 remaining in the half and to nearly 20 points at halftime.

As the second half wore on, the outcome of the game continued to be less in doubt. Menifield, plus the 16 points from Carmelo Harris, along with the Bucs’ defense proved too much for the Mountaineers to recover.

“In the game today, you have to give all the credit to Flint Beecher,” Johnson said. “They were tough; they did to us what no other team could this year. Usually Foster wouldn’t let it happen, but Beecher deserves lots of credit today.”

While other teams tried to play Iron Mountain in the manner in which Beecher did, “nobody was as good as they (Beecher) were at playing that style against us,” Johnson said.

Wonders led the Mountaineers with 13 points, all in the second half. Jurgen Kleiman chipped in 12 points and Dante Basanese netted 11 in their final game in the Mountaineers’ yellow and black retro uniforms.

“It was the most intensity I have ever seen, probably in my high school career as far as defensive pressure on myself,” said Wonders. “It made it hard for me to do anything, to even get the ball. They made it hard for our whole offense to get over half court. It was really frustrating.”

Iron Mountain ended its season at 19-1.

“Our kids deserve a lot of credit as well. We beat some good teams to get here, our outstanding group of eight players,” Johnson said. “It simply wasn’t our day today. But I will say, this was the perfect group to go through the pandemic season. They like to have fun and are easygoing and are a joy to be around.”

Iron Mountain 8 11 12 16 — 47

Flint Beecher 16 22 24 13 — 75

IRON MOUNTAIN: Kleiman 12, Wonders 13, Brown 3, Evosevich-Hynes 3, Basanese 11, Pietrantonio 5; FT: 8-13; F: 11; Fouled Out: None; 3-point FG: Brown, Wonders, Evosevich-Hynes; Rebounds: 24, Kleiman 8, Pietrantonio 7; FG Shooting: 18-45.

FLINT BEECHER: Muldrew 5, Cummings II 8, Walker 3, Runnels 2, Lee 2, Townsend 2, Harris 16, Menifield Jr. 37; FT: 6-8; F: 10; Fouled Out: None; 3-point FG: Harris, Menifield Jr., Walker; Rebounds: 21, Cummings II 7; FG Shooting: 33-53.

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