Down to the wire: Grondin’s late FT clinches comeback win

Kingsford junior guard Gavin Grondin (20) lays up a shot over Menominee’s Landen Bardowski (12) during the Flivvers home win on Monday. (Terry Raiche photo)

KINGSFORD — It was only a matter of time. And with a player like Gavin Grondin, it was likely to be sooner rather than later.

Just more than a month after he missed a pair of free throws which would have likely secured a Flivver victory over rival and top-ranked Iron Mountain, Grondin found himself in a similar situation Monday night against Menominee at Flivver Gymnasium.

After he had just tied the game at 61-all on a drive to the hoop, Grondin stood at the stripe with 5.1 seconds remaining and a possible share of the Great Northern Conference championship hanging in the balance.

Poised as can be, Grondin’s shot looked true from the time it left his hand.

The shot hit the front of the rim softly before rolling in, and when Menominee’s last-second 3-pointer to win the game fell short, Grondin and the Flivvers defeated the Maroons 62-61 and kept their conference title hopes alive at the same time.

“Well, a lot of hours in the gym shooting a lot of free throws,” Grondin said about what was going through his mind when stepped up to the line to win a game again. “And after that Iron Mountain (game) …, that sucked.

“So that was a big booster for me to get in the gym and keep shooting free throws and how much they mean. So, it was just focus in, have confidence and know that I had been shooting a lot of them.”

Given his team’s postseason aspirations and knowing that Grondin will likely be in a similar situation again at some point, Kingsford coach Dan Olkkonen was crystal clear about what his star’s winning free throw meant.

“Very important,” Olkkonen said. “Very important. He’s definitely the leader of this team and he took all the blame in Iron Mountain, which was not deserved.

“But looking at this, he’s not out there trying to take all the credit. This is something he did and we’re grateful that he hit the shot.”

Grondin’s three-point play put an end to another wild and woolly contest for the third-ranked Flivvers (17-3).

Behind seven points from senior post Jacob Markworth, six from Grondin, three each from Cardel Morton and Jack Kriegl and a free throw from Morgan Sleik, the Flivvers put up 20 in the opening quarter to take a six-point lead into the second.

The Flivvers then outscored the Maroons 8-2 in the first 3½ minutes of the second quarter to build a 28-16 advantage.

But Menominee is not a team that goes away with adversity, and fittingly the fourth-ranked Maroons(15-6) fired back with a 31-13 stretch over the rest of the second quarter and the entire third quarter.

In that third quarter, sophomore Tanner Theuerkauf and senior Connor Coduti knocked down two triples each and Eli Beal hit another to spark their team to a 47-41 lead heading into the fourth.

“Coming into the game, we felt good,” Olkkonen said. “When you look at the first half, I thought we did really well, especially the halfcourt offense.”

Outside of that it was 3-pointers that led the Maroons.

“We know we can run the floor, but I was really pleased with how we shared the ball in the half court,” Olkkonen continued. “And then they just had a barrage of 3s starting in the second quarter and they didn’t quit through the third.”

Down 53-43 with 6:36 to play, the Flivvers went to their full-court trapping press and the move paid immediate dividends as Kingsford went on a 14-3 run to regain its lead at 57-56 with 2:28 to play.

“Basketball’s a game of runs, so the other team is going to go on a run and it’s how you respond,” Grondin said. “‘Oaks’ called a timeout, we got it together (that) we were going to put the press on and that we’ve got to stick with it and make our run now and we did.”

Theuerkauf answered with a driving bucket 20 seconds later to put his team back on top. The Flivvers came up empty on the ensuing possession and Menominee went to its delay game.

The Maroons ran the clock down to 40.2 seconds left before Kingsford fouled point guard Trevor Theuerkauf. The senior hit both shots leaving his team up 60-57.

On their next possession, the Flivvers, as they had been doing for much of their fourth-quarter comeback, attacked the hoop instead of settling for a 3-point attempt. Grondin pulled his team to within one with a driving bucket with 25 ticks left.

Nine seconds later, Kingsford fouled Tanner Theuerkauf and the talented sophomore split the shots to give his team a 61-59 lead.

And then …

“I told (teammate) Gavin (Trevillian) on the free throw line that if he missed one of those free throws to give it to me on the curl and I’ll attack because I know that it will be open,” Grondin said. “And that play was drawn up for a 3-pointer if they made both of them.”

As the sequence progressed, Grondin briefly had a 3-pointer available if he chose to shoot it.

“He’s a great shooter, but he’s really good at going downhill,” Olkkonen said of Grondin. “His percentage is probably 65 on two-point shots this year.

“So you tell him, ‘Hey, this is what you’re really good at, attacking,’ so we ran that kind of cleared-out double screen for him and that’s what got him going downhill and able to turn the corner and make the shot.”

And the resulting free throw.

“It was a real big game for us because next we have Marquette and we can get a share of the (GNC) title,” Grondin said. “We knew that Menominee was coming to fight right from the start, and we just had to stick through it.”

The second-ranked Sentinels (18-3, 7-0 in the GNC) defeated Kingsford 71-69 on Jan. 4, which has left them with a one-game lead over the Flivvers who enter the game with a GNC record of 6-1.

Grondin led the Flivvers in scoring against Menominee with 23 points. Markworth finished with 13, Sleik added 10, Trevillian recorded eight, Morton had five and Kriegl contributed three.

Coduti, who hit five of his team’s 11 3-pointers, paced the Maroons with 19 points. Tanner Theuerkauf posted 18, Trevor Theuerkauf added 13, Nathan Schultz scored six, Beal chipped in with three and Landan Bardowski had two.


NIAGARA, Wis. — With its season winding down, the Niagara boys varsity basketball team picked up a big Marinette & Oconto Conference win on Monday as it toppled Oneida Nation, 68-66, at Niagara High School.

“Two teams played very good defense,” Badgers head coach Terry Youren said. “Niagara had other players step up and contribute for the big win.”

Niagara’s Cameron Schiefelbein recorded 12 points in the first half against the Thunderhawks (14-9, 9-6) but the Badgers (15-8, 11-5) trailed 30-27 at halftime.

The Niagara offense found its footing in the second half, connecting on five 3-pointers. Oneida Nation made three 3-pointers in the frame and was outscored 41-36 in the final 18 minutes as the Badgers picked up the win.

Gavin Neuens led all scorers in the game with 20 points.

Niagara also received contributions from Tommy Martin (4 points), Dante Stachowicz (14 points), Blake Holmes (12 points), and Schiefelbein (18 points).

The Badgers are headed to Goodman on Thursday for a 7:15 p.m. matchup with the Patriots.


RAPID RIVER — After leading for two quarters, the North Dickinson offense struggled to score against Rapid River on Monday and the Rockets toppled the Nordics, 48-41, in Skyline Central Conference action.

“We didn’t play very well, obviously,” North Dickinson head coach Chris Mattson said. “We had high expectations for a win and didn’t play very well, particularly, in the second half. Rapid River outrebounded us severely.”

North Dickinson held a 28-22 lead after two quarters with Trenton Kramer netting nine points.

However, the Nordics only recorded seven points in the third quarter while Rapid River poured in 12 points.

Mason Anderson buried two 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, but that was North Dickinson’s only offensive production and the Rockets locked up the conference win.

Kramer and Anderson both finished with 11 points to lead the Nordics.

Kramer also recorded six rebounds, an assist, a steal and a block while Anderson added four steals, two assists and a rebound.

North Dickinson also received contributions from Ty King (9 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 steals), Brady Jungwirth (10 points, 6 assists, 3 steals), Tyler Flemming (1 assist), Colm MacFadyen (1 rebound) and Ricky Haney (1 rebound).


FLORENCE, Wis. — Gavin Rintala recorded 15 points, Kevin Giuliani poured in 18 and Vic Giuliani added 11 as the Forest Park boys varsity basketball team rolled past Florence for a 66-52 nonconference win at Florence High School on Monday.

The win improved the Trojans to 17-3 overall while the Bobcats are now 13-9 overall.

Forest Park held a 39-25 lead after the first half and kept pouring it on offensively as it added 27 points to its total in the second frame.

The Trojans received contributions from Gabe Quevedo (5 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals), Adan Brazeika (2 points, 1 rebound), Grayson Sundell (3 points), Izaiah Tarter (1 assist), Felix Quevedo (5 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 6 steals), Matt Showers (4 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals), Dax Huuki (8 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals), Rintala (15 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 steal), Vic Giuliani (11 points, 4 rebounds) and Kevin Giuliani (18 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist).

Florence received contributions from Truth Setner (9 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal), William Kelley (19 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal), Dustin Williams (12 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist), Caleb Baker (4 points, 3 rebounds) and Trent McLain (7 points, 9 rebounds).

The Bobcats are in Bowler on Friday while Forest Park is back in action today as it heads to Lake Linden-Hubbell.

Daily News sports editor Sean Chase contributed to this report.


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