Norway stuns Rapid River

Boys basketball

Avery Bundgaard | Daily Press Rapid River’s Cameron Willemson drives by Norway’s Connor Ortman (35) on his way to the basket during the first quarter Thursday at Rapid River.

RAPID RIVER — The Norway boys’ basketball team needed a statement game after losing four straight and got it Thursday night with a big 62-51 win over Rapid River.

“It’s a big confidence booster for us,” said Norway coach Jeff Gallino. “We got down the last four games and lost so we needed a big win. The kids really grinded and pushed through to get the win.”

Norway (11-7) started the game with a lot of energy applying a lot of full-court pressure defense and shot the lights out as it jumped out to a 17-0 lead. The Knights were aggressive and hot the field shooting 9-for-13 (69 percent) in the first quarter.

“I just thought our shot selection was good,” said Gallino. “We were patient and moved the ball around and got a good look.”

The Rockets (15-2) did not look like a top-tier team like they have all season, especially in the first quarter as they struggled to score and got their only two points on a layup from Logan Hardwick with 1:35 left.

Avery Bundgaard | Daily Press Rapid River’s Tyler Sundling (10) puts up a runner in the lane over Norway’s Mitchell LeGrave (24) during the second quarter Thursday at Rapid River.

It seemed like there was a lid on the basket for Rapid River, which missed its first 12 shots and finished 1-for-14 (seven percent) for the quarter.

“I think it was a combination of us missing shots and us getting down on ourselves,” said Rapid River coach Rich Poma. “When shots don’t fall we have to find another way to get them in. We started shooting threes early and we weren’t penetrating and getting to the basket enough. At some point some of the leaders have to step up and figure out how to get those baskets for us.”

Norway kept up its dominance in the quarter and Connor Ortman hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to push the lead to 25-2 entering the second period.

The Rockets would gather themselves in the second quarter and eventually cut the deficit to 11 and trailed 36-23 entering halftime.

The Rockets shot a lot better in the second quarter going 7-for-15 (47 percent) from the field and 5-for-7 (71 percent) from the free-throw line to outscore the Knights by 10 in that quarter.

“There was a lot more focus and maybe a little embarrassment,” Poma said on his team’s turnaround. “I think that helped turn up the intensity a little bit. I think they were taking more chances instead of laying back on their heels.”

The Rockets continued their comeback in the third quarter going on an 11-5 run to pull within seven.

The Knights would then score seven straight points to halt Rapid River’s momentum and go back up by 14.

Norway would keep Rapid River in check the rest of the quarter and lead 50- 39 entering the final period.

The Rockets would make one final push in the fourth quarter as they pulled within seven.

Norway moved the ball around well down the stretch, forcing the Rockets to foul and the Knights would hit seven free throws in the final minutes to seal the win.

“We’ve been in that situation a few times this year and we just tell them to keep their composure and fight through,” said Gallino. “We were 10-for-14 in the fourth quarter from the free-throw line which is huge. You have to make free throws down the stretch and we did tonight.”

Ortman was the top scorer for the Knights and had 13 of his 24 points in the first quarter. Josh Plante followed Ortman with 17 and Micah Wilson added 12.

Hardwick led the way for the Rockets with 22 points while Lucas Sundling had 14 and Tyler Sundling added 10.

Norway travels to Munising Tuesday while Rapid River hosts North Dickinson today.

The summary:

Norway 25 11 14 12 — 62

Rapid River 2 21 16 12 — 51

Norway — Wilson 12, Plante 17, Faull 3, LeGrave 2, Hendricks 4, Ortman 24; FT: 18-22; F: 17; Fouled out: none; 3-point field goals: Wilson 1, Plante 3, Faull 1, Ortman 1.

Rapid River — L. Sundling 14, T. Sundling 10, Hardwick 22, Willemsen 5; FT: 5-14; F: 19; Fouled out: Willemsen; 3-point field goals: L. Sundling 3, T. Sundling 2, Hardwick 2, Willemsen 1.