SC boys fall in finale
STEPHENSON — The Stephenson boys’ basketball team hosted Superior Central on Saturday afternoon for Senior Night in its regular season home finale, and the Eagles sent their seniors off the right way.
Way back in seventh-grade, the seniors on this Stephenson team got their first career win with coach Eric Panske. All throughout junior high and high school, the players have never tasted a winning season — until this year.
Stephenson’s seniors capped off their high school career with their 12th win of the season to finish the year 12-8 in the programs first winning season in the last 11 years with a 54-39 victory.
Because it was senior night, Stephenson started all five of its seniors to begin the game. Preston Kuntze scored the first five points for Stephenson to get out to a 5-4 lead early in the first. Both teams went cold from the field for the remainder of the first, besides two baskets from Stephenson’s sophomore Jimmy Coldren as the Eagles took a 9-5 lead after the first quarter.
“We got two pretty quick buckets and then after that, they were in a zone and it just took us a little bit to get our offense set up with a different starting group out there,” Panske said.
Starzynski started off the second with a drive down the lane to go up 11-5, but Superior Central’s Beau Rondeau made back-to-back baskets, followed by a free throw from Roubens Fink to trim the deficit to 11-10 with just under four minutes until halftime.
After Stephenson missed a pair of free throws, the Cougars took the lead on two free throws from D.J. Johns. The teams traded the lead when Stephenson’s Aaron Cappaert made a long two, followed by Rondeau’s 3-pointer to give the Cougars a 15-13 advantage. Joey Starzynski grabbed the lead back at 16-15 for Stephenson after going 3-for-4 on two sets of bonus free throws with 1 minute, 49 seconds until halftime. Stephenson went on a 9-0 run to end the half to take a 25-15 halftime lead.
The Eagles were getting after it defensively all game, forcing turnovers and turning them into transition baskets. Once they started seeing some layups fall, the confidence carried over into the second half as they made five of their seven 3-pointers.
“One of our goals every game is to be aggressive defensively and push the tempo by getting deflections and steals and getting out in transition for some easy baskets,” Panske said. “Once you see some layups go in, then the outside shots start hitting too.”
Stephenson’s lead hovered around the 10-point mark until early in the fourth quarter when Starzynski knocked down a corner 3-pointer, drove down the middle of the lane for a basket and Bryce Keuhnau turned a steal into a layup to take a 45-30 lead with just over four minutes to play.
Rondeau picked up his fifth foul with 6:10 remaining in the game. He exited with a game-high 17 points.
“We were pretty banged up today after playing (Friday) night and had a few guys trying to push through an injury and a couple more that were out due to injuries and that left with me with six guys, so I think we were pretty tired from the previous night’s game,” Cougars’ coach Branson Richard said. “(Stephenson) is a good team, we just couldn’t keep up offensively. Defensively, I thought we played fine we just couldn’t do it offensively. And then when Beau fouled out that hurt us because he’s a lot of our offense.”
With the Eagles leading 52-37, the seniors exited off their home floor one last time to a standing ovation from the crowd and congratulations from the coaches.
Starzynski led Stephenson with 15 points and Coldren added 11.
Stephenson travels to face the winner of tonight’s game between Carney-Nadeau and North Central Wednesday for its district opener, while Superior Central (6-14) faces Mid Pen tonight at Big Bay de Noc.
Superior Central 5 10 13 11 — 39
Stephenson 9 16 11 18 — 54
Superior Central — B. Rondeau 17, Fink 8, Johns 6, Koski 5, Carlson 2, Leppanen 1.
Stephenson — Starzynski 15, Coldren 11, Kuntze 8, Keuhnau 7, Tickler 4, Thoune 3, Barstow 3, Cappaert 2, Monette 1.