Rockets end district cage drought
EBEN — It’s been 13 years since the Rapid River boys basketball team won a district title but that drought came to an end Wednesday as it defeated Mid Peninsula 60-50 in a Class D championship.
“It feels amazing,” said Rapid River coach Rich Poma. “I can’t put it into words and I don’t know if it’s really sunk in. It’s been awhile and I’m really proud of the guys tonight.”
The Rockets advance to regionals Monday at Negaunee to take on Friday’s winner between Bessemer and Ewen-Trout Creek.
Poma attributed the win to patience and free-throw shooting, something his team struggled with during the regular season.
“Down the stretch we hit our free throws,” said Poma. “That’s kind of been our achilles heel all year long. Their patience in the first half was good. We pushed it when it needed to be pushed. When we didn’t have anything we took it out and we got a good look at a shot.”
Mid Pen coach Mark Branstrom was proud of his team for fighting all game and never letting it get out of control.
“We played real well,” said Branstrom. “I’m not complaining about anything. The only thing is we couldn’t buy a shot. That’s exactly what took place most of the season. Tonight was just not our night.”
The Rockets (10-12) came out strong in the first quarter building a 13-3 lead heading into the second quarter.
The second quarter was more even as both teams traded baskets for most of the quarter.
Junior Logan Hardwick scored 11 of his 27 points in the second quarter including a 3-pointer at the buzzer to propel Rapid River to a 30-17 lead heading into halftime.
“Logan has been big for us all year long,” said Poma.
“It’s not even him scoring points. He draws so much attention to him.
“Going into halftime hitting the three at the buzzer was huge. With a crowd like this and it being districts it was electric.”
That momentum carried into the second half as the Rockets stormed out to an 11-4 run to increase their lead to 20.
The Wolverines responded with eight unanswered points to cut the deficit to 41-29 heading into the final quarter.
Mid Pen (6-15) scored the first five points of the fourth quarter to come within seven but that’s as close as it would come.
“Their energy and what they brought tonight I can’t complain at all,” said Branstrom. “We cut it to seven I think at one time and that was all heart. We started shooting the ball like we’re capable of doing but to get back extended a whole lot of energy.”
The Wolverines started fouling and the Rockets hit 15 of 18 free throws to seal the victory.
Freshman Tyler Sundling added 12 points for Rapid River.
Junior Evan Hill led Mid Pen with 15 points.
Mid Peninsula 3 14 12 21 — 50
Rapid River 13 17 11 19 — 60
Mid Peninsula — Carlson 2, D. Englund 9, Brower 9, Hill 15, Barron 6, Z. Englund 9; FT: 8-11; F: 19; Fouled out: none; 3-point field goals: Brower 2, Hill 3, Z. Englund 1.
Rapid River — Sundling 12, Hardwick 27, Willemson 8, Landis 7, Berglund 2, Demers 4; FT: 21-28; F: 17; Fouled out: none; 3-point field goals: Sundling 2, Hardwick 2, Landis 1.