EAST LANSING, Mich. - Live by the three and die by the three. It's been both the saving grace and Achilles heel for the Carney-Nadeau Wolves this season.
Thursday night, on the hallowed hardwood of the Breslin Center, the net may have felt smaller, the palms may have felt sweatier. For whatever reason, the shots did not fall and so the Wolves did.
Climax-Scotts shot just well enough to secure a Class D title game slot, ousting Carney-Nadeau with a 52-44 victory in the semifinal.
Wade Schetter of Carney-Nadeau brings the ball upcourt between Zach Nabozny (21) and Kirk Gibson (23) of Climax-Scotts Thursday in the Class D semifinal at The Breslin Center. Climax-Scotts won 52-44. (Courtesy photo by Paul Gerard)
"I thought our defense played great again tonight. We just didn't knock down the shots we usually knock down. That will happen sometimes at tourney time, but the kids gave their best effort tonight," said Wolves coach Jake Polfus.
Climax-Scotts bolstered dual 6-foot-7 towers Aaron Cook and Malachi Satterlee, though it wasn't so much their size that did that the Wolves in, but their style of play. Favoring a slow-paced, down-tempo game, the Panthers threw C-N of it's rhythm and usually hot shooters like Lucas Moreau and Wade Schetter were never able to maintain a prolonged offensive flow.
"I don't think their height bothered us as much as I thought, but they pulled the ball out and pressured us. They won the tempo game and did a good job playing at the pace they wanted to," said Polfus.
Though the end result was a loss, the Wolves (23-3) did everything they needed to win, besides shoot. They won the turnover battle, they out-rebounded the Panthers and they played generally better defense.
"We did everything we wanted to win the game, we just didn't knock down shots," said Polfus. "I thought our work ethic came into play again tonight. That's been key all year long."
From the start of the game, C-N was playing at a high level, when Schetter, all of 5-foot-9, went up to block a shot on Satterlee. Often unheralded Dylan Lanaville (6-foot-1) did a monumental job on Satterlee, defending him throughout the game and never letting him get comfortable as he was held to 12 points.
"I thought Lanaville did a good job being physical with Satterlee. We knew from the report that he gets frustrated easily and I told Lanaville to play him physical and he did," said Polfus.
Three-point shooting ended up being the largest factor. The Wolves hit seven but attempted about five times that many. Schetter opened the game with two in the first quarter and finished with three and a team-leading 15 points.
Keenan Lampinen got hot in the second quarter where he scored seven of his 12 points and Moreau had a solid second half, scoring nine of his 13 points.
"I thought we did a good job getting it to people we wanted to shoot. The kids got moving but the shots didn't fall. They never got down on themselves though," said Polfus.
The Wolves played from behind throughout, but threatened to take the lead twice. After trailing 27-19 at halftime, C-N held the Panthers scoreless until the four minute mark of the third period. Lanaville's first points of the game brought the Wolves within 29-27, but Climax-Scotts responded with a 7-0 run, including five consecutive points from Cook.
In the fourth quarter, the Wolves closed within 40-37 but the Panthers again responded with a 15-7 run the rest of the way.
"We could never get over the hump. The kids fought to get back in and then the ball would go in and out, said Polfus. "But the effort was tremendous all night. It was never say die just like the whole tournament run."
Though the pain of losing may sting for a few days, Polfus said he told the team they'll look back on this and have something to be proud of.
"It's been a great season for these kids and I'm proud to have them on my team. It's amazing what they've accomplished. No one gave us much of a chance to do anything, and these kids gave us a run and gave the community something to be excited about," said Polfus.
Climax-Scotts will play Southfield Christian in the Class D title game Saturday at 10 a.m. Southfield defeated Muskegon Catholic Central 78-74 in the earlier semifinal.
(NOTE: This story was assembled using information from a live game stream on www.mhsaa.tv)
Climax-Scotts 16 11 9 16 - 52
Carney-Nadeau 10 9 13 12 - 44
Climax-Scotts - Cook 12, Satterlee 12, Gibson 12, Nabaeny 6, Hanga 5, Eshius 5; FT: 8-10; F: 12; Fouled out: None; 3-point field goals: Cook 3, Eshius 2.
Carney-Nadeau - Moreau 13, Blahnik 1, Lanaville 3, Lampinen 12, Schetter 15; FT: 4-7; F: 15; Fouled out: None; 3-point field goals: Lampinen 3, Schetter 3, Moreau.