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Mountaineers get past Ramblers

53-50 win over McBain sends Iron Mountain into state semifinals at Breslin Center

(Jason Juno photos) Iron Mountain’s Foster Wonders (00) releases a shot over McBain’s Kaiden McGillis (3) in Tuesday’s MHSAA Division 3 quarterfinal game in Lake City. Wonders scored 38 points to lead the Mountaineers to a 53-50 win.

LAKE CITY — Iron Mountain’s boys basketball team — back in the MHSAA Division 3 quarterfinals for the second time in three years — got 38 points from senior Foster Wonders to eke past McBain 53-50 Tuesday night at Lake City High School.

As the game got started, McBain came out like gangbusters, working their offense and draining perimeter shots. It almost seemed as if the Mountaineers were a tad groggy from the 300-plus-mile bus trip, and McBain was fresh from their short 12- mile trip to LCHS.

Other than a Bryce Pietrantonio steal and layup for the Mountaineers on the Ramblers’ first possession, McBain’s defense made Iron Mountain work hard for the points they got in the first stanza. The Ramblers were clogging the lane, as well as having one or two defenders sag on Wonders when he got the basketball.

McBain led 19-12 after one quarter.

“Sometimes, until we play a couple of game minutes, it’s hard to find the right matchups defensively,” said Iron Mountain head coach Harvey “Bucky” Johnson. “The switches we made early in the game on defense seemed to help as the game wore on.”

Dante Basanese, left, and Joey Dumais (24) celebrate Iron Mountain’s victory.

Johnson had to go to his bench early in the game, as with 5:56 left in the first quarter, Caleb Evosevich-Hynes picked up two quick fouls.

Wonders drained a step-back trey on the Mountaineers’ first possession of the second quarter. After a Ramblers miscue, Wonders swished a fade-away to trim the seven-point lead McBain had to two points.

With a tad under two minutes left in the first half, IM tied the contest at 19-19. With about 1:30 remaining, Jurgen Kleiman sank one of two free throws to give the Mountaineers their first lead of the game at 20-19. All the while, McBain didn’t score a point in the quarter until the last shot of the stanza.

“The second quarter was huge for us. If we had given up another 19 points like we did in the first, we may have been in trouble,” Johnson stated. “We started to contest more shots and our defense got better as the half went on.”

Mason Heuker drained a deep three-pointer at the buzzer to send the teams into their locker rooms with the score knotted at 22 apiece.

“This has happened to us a few times this season. We’ll be clipping along offensively and then we’ll freeze up,” said McBain head coach Bruce Koopman. “Iron Mountain got more physical, which at this level of the season, it’s what a team should do, and it knocked us back on our heels a little.”

The physicality of the Mountaineers that Koopman referenced is the style of play they’ve used the majority of the season.

A key to the game, Johnson emphasized, was a seven-point surge the Mountaineers had at the start of the third stanza.

“The two quick buckets and Ricky (Brown) banging the three, that gave us a lead that ended up 10 at the end of the quarter,” Johnson said.

Throughout the final quarter, McBain battled back, but in the end Wonders’ scoring and the Mountaineers’ defense was too much to overcome for the Ramblers.

“Tonight was a great win here in Lake City, and we’re on to the semifinals,” Johnson said. “I give McBain a lot of credit, they’re a great team, well-coached and disciplined.”

The Mountaineers will travel to East Lansing to play at the Breslin Center on the campus of Michigan State University on Thursday morning at 11:30 a.m. Central. Iron Mountain will face 19-1 Schoolcraft.

“Wonders is a terrific player. On top of him and his experience, Iron Mountain has a handful of guys with experience from their run two years ago. That’s something we’re lacking, but our kids didn’t back down or quit,” Koopman said.

McBain, a member of the Highland Conference, finishes the season at 16-1 with the loss.

McBain 19 3 6 22 — 50

Iron Mtn 12 10 16 15 — 53

McBAIN: McGillis 22, Murphy 11, VerBerkmoes 2, Heuker 3, Rodenbaugh 8; FT: 9-15; F: 18; Fouled Out: McGillis, VerBerkmoes; 3-point FG: McGillis 3, Murphy, Heuker.

IRON MTN: Brown 5, Pietrantonio 3, Evosevich-Hynes 2, Kleiman 5, Wonders 38; FT: 9-14; F: 13; Fouled Out: None; 3-point FG: Brown, Wonders 3.

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