Regional journey ends for Rapid River
NEGAUNEE — The tournament trail came to an end for the fourth-ranked Rapid River boys Monday night as they dropped a 63-60 decision to top-ranked Dollar Bay in a Class D regional opener.
Dollar Bay (24-0) returns to the Lakeview Memorial Gym where it will meet Carney-Nadeau (16-7) in Wednesday’s title game at 7 p.m. The Rockets finished 19-4.
Rapid River, which trailed most of the contest, took a brief 58-57 lead in the final 81 seconds on a 22-foot jump shot by senior guard Lucas Sundling.
The Blue Bolts regained the lead on a running 5-foot jumper by senior forward Jaden Janke and went up by three points (61-58) on a pair of free throws by senior Devin Schmitz with 30.2 seconds remaining.
A layup by senior Cameron Willemsen moved the Rockets within 61-60 with 21.9 seconds left to play.
The Blue Bolts, however, ended the scoring 3.6 seconds later on a pair of free throws by junior Brendan LeClaire.
“The last minute seemed like an eternity for sure,” said Dollar Bay coach Jesse Kentala. “We weren’t perfect, but we did enough little things down the stretch to win the game.”
The Rockets had one more chance to force overtime, but failed to convert.
“We didn’t get the shot we wanted, although it wasn’t a bad shot,” said Rockets’ coach Rich Poma. “We thought we could match up with them okay, but their first five were too fast for us. We ended up going to a zone in the second half to see if we could slow them down. That’s an extremely fast team.”
Dollar Bay led by as much as 48-35 late in the third stanza. The Rockets then went on a 15-2 run and climbed within 50-48 on back-to-back 3-point jumpers by senior Jarrett LaCasse early in the fourth.
The Blue Bolts bumped their lead back up to six points (56-50) on a pair of gifters by senior Jacob Iacono at 3:40. The Rockets, however, didn’t allow the contest to get out of hand.
“Tonight was about finding the mis-matches,” said Kentala. “We still have to find that killer instinct. We let them make some runs at us, but that’s what good teams do. They’re a very well coached team.”
Dollar Bay led 27-16 following a pair of free throws by Schmitz with 4:27 left in the second frame.
The Rockets then finished the second with a 10-2 run, slicing their deficit to 29-26 on a putback by Willemsen with 12 seconds left.
Schmitz opened the third quarter by hitting a jumper from the lane and Janke then drained a running jumper from the boulevard for a 33-26 cushion at 6:25.
“When they needed a big shot, he (Schmitz) got it,” said Poma. “We definitely wanted the region, but they were the better team tonight. One through five they were solid.”
Schmitz, who hit 10-of-11 shots inside the arc and all six of his free throws, led Dollar Bay with 26 points. Iacono and senior Brandon Thompson hit 10 apiece. Sundling paced the Rockets with 21.
“Our senior leadership came through,” said Kentala. “Jaden came through with some big plays down the stretch and Devin had another gritty performance. We never got away from the philosophy ‘Devin you have to attack’ and he did a fantastic job.”
Dollar Bay hit 23-of-45 field goals, 13-of-16 free throws and committed 11 turnovers. Rapid River was 26-of-60 from the field and just 3-of-10 from the line. The Rockets had eight miscues.
“It has been kind of like that all year,” said Poma. “Our free throw shooting (1-of-5 in the fourth quarter) is something that hurt us down the stretch. We had a few hiccups along the way, but overall we’re pretty happy with our season.”
Dollar Bay 22 7 19 15 — 63
Rapid River 12 14 14 20 — 60
Dollar Bay — LeClaire 8, Thompson 10, Schmitz 26, Janke 9, Iocono 10. FT: 13-16; F: 16; Fouled out: Janke; 3-point field goals: LeClaire 2, Thompson 2.
Rapid River — L. Sundling 21, T. Sundling 7, Hardwick 9, Willemsen 9, DeMars 6, LaCasse 8. FT: 3-10; F: 15; Fouled out: None; 3-point field goals: L. Sundling 3, LaCasse 2.