Jets pass test
North Central tops Maroons, victory streak hits 59 games
MENOMINEE — The North Central Jets were never in any real danger here Monday night, but they were never able to really get comfortable either.
The Jets held off Menominee 70-59 in a non-conference boys basketball game, the first serious challenge they’ve faced since a pair of four-point victories last season (at Menominee 64-60) and against Forest Park (61-57) in the regular season finale.
North Central brings a 4-0 record and 59-game winning streak into the Christmas break, and coach Adam Mercier said this latest victory gives them plenty of things to work out during the holidays.
“We have to keep playing basketball and not make mental mistakes. Tonight we did make mistakes,” he said. “This will be a great learning tool moving forward.
“We’ve never had an easy game down here. This is exactly what we need before the turn of the year.”
The Jets were not sharp or crisp against the physical Maroons, several of whom played on the Division 6 state football runner-up. The Jets of course won the eight-player football state championship, but their game was more finesse on the gridiron as well as the hardwood. “We were out-sized,” said Mercier.
“We were very lucky to sneak one out,” said Mercier, acknowledging the Maroons (0-2) “reverted to their athleticism” to keep the score within range all the way.
Menominee could never get over the hump and mount a serious challenge, but neither could North Central pull away and open some breathing room. The Jets used a 13-point flurry to build a 15-4 lead in the opening quarter, then kept the Maroons at bay with balanced scoring and a tough defense.
“It felt like it was real scrappy,” said North Central senior Marcus Krachinski, who had 16 points to provide a huge scoring bonus for the Jets. “They have big, physical players. We knew this would be more physical than our other games would be,” said Krachinski, who had two triples in a spurt where he had eight points in the opening 2:44 of the second quarter as the Jets opened a 28-11 cushion.
“They left me open,” he said, noting the Maroons were concentrating on Jason Whitens and Dawson Bilski. Mercier said Krachinski “came out shooting with a purpose. They threw different defenses at us.”
Menominee coach Pete Pericolosi said “a key was he (Krachinski) made a lot of baskets. They are so balanced. Our defense tried to contain Whitens and Bilski and make someone else beat us and Krachinski took care of that.”
Whitens led the Jets with 18 points while Bilski and Bobby Kleiman added 15.
The veteran skipper said another key was the Jets taking charge early. “The game really changed a lot in the first quarter. We had five possessions and didn’t get any shots off. Against a team like that, it is hard to come back, but our kids never quit.”
The Maroons made it difficult for the potent Jets by switching defenses. “We tried about four different defenses tonight,” Pericolosi said.
North Central opened a 35-18 lead before intermission and led 49-33 with 2:08 left in the third quarter but Marcus McKenney led a late Menominee comeback by scoring 12 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter.
McKenney, Bilski and Krachinski played together on the Northern Michigan Drive summer team. “We knew what type of player he is. I respect his game,” said Krachinski. “He is one of the quickest and fastest players we have to play against.”
North Central, which won the jayvee game 39-30, hosts Superior Central Jan. 3.
North Central 12 23 17 15 — 70
Menominee 9 13 18 19 — 59
North Central — Krachinski 16, Polfus 2, Bilski 15, Kleiman 15, Whitens 21, Snyder 1. FT: 10-14; F: 11; Fouled out: None; ;3-point field goals – Krachinski 4, Bilski 2, Kleiman 1, Whitens 1.
Menominee — Antilla 8, McKenney 26, Hass 9, Anglehart 2, Mathias 5, Kempka 7, Cole 2, Wickstrom 2. FT: 11-11; F: 17; Fouled out: None; 3-point field goals – Antilla 2, Hass 1, Kempka 1.