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Offensive woes: Flivvers struggle to score as Sentinels take GNC crown

Kingsford junior guard Jaxon Buckley (0) elevates for a shot attempt over Marquette defenders Adam DuVall (42) and Drew Bradley (15) on Thursday in Flivver Gym. (Terry Raiche photo)

KINGSFORD — When the No. 2 and No. 3 ranked teams in Division 1-3, according to the UPSSA, meet up it’s sure to provide fireworks. And fans got just that on Thursday at Flivver Gym as Kingsford (No. 3) welcomed Marquette (No. 2) to town looking to claim a share of the Great Northern U.P. Conference title with a win.

The Flivvers’ offense (17-4, 6-2) struggled to convert opportunities into points against the Sentinels (19-3, 8-0) and Marquette secured the outright conference title with a 64-37 win.

Marquette held a narrow advantage over the Flivvers in the conference race after picking up a 71-69 win in Marquette on Jan. 4.

“It feels great, I’m so proud of the kids,” Sentinels head coach Rich Ledy said. “I think they were kind of hoping that Menominee would win on Monday, but I told them, after Kingsford beat Menominee, ‘Hey, we want to win it on the court, we don’t want to back into anything. Let’s go down there and show them we’re the best team in the conference.’ And I felt like we did.”

Although Kingsford looked strong in the opening two quarters, it couldn’t buy a basket down the stretch.

Kingsford senior Jacob Markworth (35) puts up a shot over the Sentinels’ Kyler Sager (4) on Thursday at Kingsford High School. (Terry Raiche photo)

“At the end we were pretty upset, but looking at that first half, we did some pretty good things,” Flivvers head coach Dan Olkkonen said. “I thought we ran our offense well. I thought we had a lot of looks we really wanted, especially from the outside, we just did not shoot the ball very well. That has to be one of our worst shooting games of the year.

“For the ball not to go in and you start pressing more and start pressing early, and even when we got the ball back it seemed like it almost always bounced their way. You get a lot of things that go against you out there and we kept fighting. They have a really good team. … They’re not undefeated in the conference for no reason.”

Prior to the game, Kingsford honored its five seniors, Connor Quick, Cardel Morton, Eli Wallis, Cayden Cherubini and Jacob Markworth.

“They’re great guys, every one of those seniors out there,” Olkkonen said. “They’ve been a huge part of our program for years now. I’ve been here for a long time and to see kids go out, they’re going to be successful in life. … They’re good kids, great friends, awesome teammates and they’re going to be good people in life.”

Sentinels’ junior Jacob MacPhee opened the scoring in the first quarter with a layup, sparking a 10-1 run from Marquette.

Kingsford junior Morgan Sleik stopped the bleeding by burying two free throws and the Flivvers called a timeout to regroup.

MacPhee got the Sentinels back on track with a two-handed slam and they rolled to a 15-7 lead at the start of the second frame.

After scoring two points in the first, Flivvers junior guard Gavin Grondin found his stroke and connected on a 3-pointer at the start of the second to cut the lead to five.

Markworth added a layup and Morton pitched in five down the stretch of the second, however, Marquette’s Parker Saunders hit a 3-pointer from the right corner and it went into the locker room up 28-19.

Markworth recorded a rebound and putback layup early in the third, but Marquette came out of the locker room on a roll. Less than four minutes into the frame, the Sentinels lead was up to 20 points.

“Their bigs inside played well,” Olkkonen said.

“Then we put in a full-court pressure, we really had to work on that and they got some easy buckets. The run just kept going. It seemed like we were working really hard and that deficit kept getting bigger and bigger.”

Grondin notched seven points in the final four minutes of the third, but as the buzzer sounded, the Marquette advantage was still 20 points, 52-32.

A layup to start the final frame pushed Grondin’s total for the game to 17 points and gave Kingsford life.

However, it couldn’t slow the Sentinels momentum and they breezed to the conference win.

Grondin’s 17 points led all scorers in the contest.

The Flivvers also received contributions from Jaxon Buckley (1 point), Quick (1 point), Morton (5 points), Wallis (2 points), Sleik (4 points) and Markworth (7 points).

Marquette received contributions from Jaxon Jurmu (11 points), Kyler Sager (7 points), Wyatt Lakenen (16 points), Drew Bradley (2 points), Jack Quinnell (8 points), MacPhee (10 points), Saunders (6 points), Adam DuVall (2 points) and Connor Fierstine (2 points).

“I’m proud of the season we had and I’m proud of the kids,” Olkkonen said. “They’re upset right now, we are all upset, but the season is over. Now we have our new season, 0-0, and that’s really got to be our focus.”

Now both teams turn their attention to the MHSAA playoffs. Each has a bye in the opening round of districts and will play their first game at home on Wednesday.

For Kingsford, they will face the winner of Monday’s contest between Gladstone and Houghton.

“In basketball, everybody gets a playoff game, so we’ve known for two weeks now that we’d be at home, getting that bye and that No. 1 seed,” Olkkonen said. “And if we win, we play at home again. It’s nice that it’s in our gym all week. Hopefully, we win on Wednesday and then we win on Friday.

“You’ve just gotta tell them it’s a new season. We’ve got to look at everything. Every team works to try and get better as the season goes on and Gladstone is tough. We haven’t seen Houghton since the beginning of December. … We have to be the ones that work harder, put more time in and stay focused.”

MOUNTAINEERS 80, GREMLINS 35

IRON MOUNTAIN — Oskar Kangas scored 31 points, grabbed 18 rebounds, dished out four assists, recorded three steals and blocked two shots in Division 1-3 top-ranked Iron Mountain’s 80-35 rout of Houghton in a West Pac Conference game Thursday at Mountaineer Gym.

With the victory, Iron Mountain closed its regular season with a 21-1 record.

The Mountaineers scuffled a bit to begin the game, leading 14-12 after one quarter and 27-19 at halftime. But they ended all doubt in the third period with a 29-9 run to go up 56-28 heading into the fourth.

“Slow start then had a great second half,” IM coach Harvey “Bucky” Johnson said.

Nine players scored for the Mountaineers. Aside from Oskar Kangas’ output, Reece Kangas and Brayden Kassin totaled nine each, Ian Marttila finished with eight, Matthew Colavecchi recorded seven, Gerald Sampoll Torres and Kaden Sheldon scored five each, Aiden Ellis posted four and Evan Copley wound up with two.

Iron Mountain shot 53 percent on its 2-point attempts, 37 on its 3-point shots and 16 of 19 (84 percent) from the foul line.

The Mountaineers are off until Wednesday, Feb. 28 when they will host the winner of Monday’s District 66 opener between Bark-River Harris (4-17 heading into its final regular season game) and Manistique (8-14).

KNIGHTS 81, ROCKETS 52

RAPID RIVER — Alex Ortman poured in 28 points and Mason Trudeau pitched in 22 as the Norway boys varsity basketball team toppled Skyline Central Conference – Large School foe Rapid River, 81-52, on the road to secure an outright conference title.

The Knights ended their 2023-24 regular season at 17-5 overall and a perfect 8-0 in conference play.

Norway only recorded one 3-point shot in the first quarter, however, its offense was clicking and it took an 18-11 lead into the second.

Ian Popp had five in the frame while Ortman and Bryce Adams both pitched in four.

Ortman exploded for 13 points and Trudeau netted six as the Knights extended their lead to 42-26 at the half.

Trudeau scored 13 points in the final two quarters while Ortman notched 11 and Norway rolled to the win and conference crown.

The Knights also received contributions from Popp (7 points), Adams (4 points), AJ Gallino (11 points), Anthony Pineda (2 points) and Maddex Burklund (3 points).

Norway is back in action on Wednesday at home for District 99 action against Watersmeet at 6 p.m.

BADGERS 56, PATRIOTS 42

GOODMAN, Wis. — Niagara made the trip to Goodman, Wis. to face off with the Patriots. In the end, the Badgers received 18 points from Blake Holmes and 13 from Tommy Martin as they cruised to a 56-42 win over Goodman-Pembine on Thursday.

Both teams scored 23 points in the final frame, but the Badgers poured in 33 points in the opening half to pull away as Holmes scored 14 points.

Even though it won, Niagara finished 3 for 9 from the free throw line while the Patriots were 4 for 9 from the stripe.

Niagara also received contributions from Alex Tripp (4 points), Gavin Neuens (9 points), Dante Stachowicz (5 points) and Cameron Schiefelbein (7 points).

Ryan Ehlert led all scorers with 22 points.

Goodman-Pembine also received contributions from Josh Knutson (2 points), Chase Kozelek (3 points), Kyle Braaten (13 points) and Brayden Lewis (2 points).

No. 4 seeded, Niagara hosts No. 13 ranked Lena on Tuesday in the opening round of the WIAA Division 5 boys basketball regional round.

The Patriots are headed to St. Thomas Aquinas Academy on Tuesday.

Daily News sports writer Jerry DeRoche contributed to this report.

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