IM dominates Negaunee
NEGAUNEE — The maximum capacity of Lakeview Memorial Gymnasium in Negaunee is 2,630 persons.
However, it felt like many more than that were in attendance for the Iron Mountain and Negaunee boys varsity basketball game held there on Tuesday night.
Rightfully so, as it was slated to be one of the biggest Upper Peninsula high school basketball games to be played since Dollar Bay and Ewen-Trout Creek squared off in a battle of ranked unbeatens at Michigan Tech’s Wood Gym in 2018.
Going into Tuesday, the Mountaineers held a record of 9-0 and were ranked the No. 2 team in the state in Division 3 by the Associated Press and No. 1 in the U.P. by the Upper Peninsula Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association.
The Miners came into the day with a 10-0 mark sitting at No. 8 in the Division 3 AP rankings and No. 2 in the UPSSA poll. They were also playing for some redemption from last season’s 51-40 loss to I-M in the regional semifinals.
The stage was set for a showdown of unbeatens, and when the gym filled up and the lights over the bleachers went out to make the court shine, it was the Mountaineers prevailing on that big stage, picking up a 69-51 win over the Miners and handing the home team its first loss of the season.
I-M put four players in double figures as senior guard Marcus Johnson led the way with 19. Junior guard Foster Wonders nearly matched that with 18 while senior forward Tony Feira had 12 and junior forward Joey Dumais 11.
Junior guard Ricky Brown was the Mountaineers’ only other scorer, chipping in nine points thanks to a perfect first quarter beyond the arc.
Negaunee hung tough with the I-M throughout the first quarter with a putback shot from senior guard Jakson Sager giving the Miners their first lead of the night at 9-8. Brown followed that up with a left corner triple to regain the Mountaineers lead immediately.
Sager tied the game at 11-11 before Brown hit from range again, this time from the right corner.
A successful And-1 play from Negaunee senior forward Alex Munson tied the game at 14 apiece before Brown went back to the left corner for another triple to keep his team ahead.
Brown’s streak helped give the Mountaineers a 20-14 lead after one quarter and they never looked back from there.
“Ricky came in during the first half and banged the open shots,” Iron Mountain head coach Bucky Johnson said. “Tony hit some open shots there in the second half and Jake Dumais was on the boards all night.
“Negaunee was well prepared for us and that’s what we expected. It was just a really good game for our team (tonight).”
The Mountaineers took a 37-30 lead into the locker room at halftime and came back for the second half firing on all cylinders, outscoring the Miners 18-7 in the third quarter to take a 55-37 lead with eight minutes to play. They increased the margin to as high as 22 in the fourth, putting away any realistic attempt at a Miners comeback.
Johnson said the big second half performance was a matter of controlling the tempo and getting contributions across the floor, rather than simply looking to his two biggest weapons in Wonders and Marcus Johnson.
“I think we had the game in our tempo,” he said. “We want to get up and down the court and we were able to have some success in that. We hit some tough shots and we had contributions from everybody one way or another.
“That was big coming into this game because we knew they’d (Negaunee) be focused on Marcus and Foster and they’d want to stop them. They did a good job of that, but I was proud of our defense tonight too. We held down a really good Negaunee team that was tough.”
Negaunee head coach Dan Waterman said his team hit the snowball effect a little bit, getting knocked down in the first and unable to recover after halftime.
“You’ve got to give Iron Mountain credit,” he said. “They made a bunch of shots in the first half and kind of knocked us back. Despite all of that, we were still only down seven (at halftime). I didn’t think our energy was right in the third quarter and they continued to make shots.
“We were a little too reliant on shooting three’s and it kind of snowballed on us. They’re a good team and they made plays (tonight). We’re a good team and we didn’t make enough plays, and that was the tale of the game.”
Waterman added that playing in front of a packed gym and energetic crowd is a good simulation of tournament atmosphere come March.
“Absolutely,” he said. “The more times you can be in this atmosphere, the more natural in becomes to your kids. It’s just unfortunate that we didn’t give the fans the show that they were looking for.”
After falling into a 12 point hole in the second quarter, the Miners used a 9-2 run to cut the lead down to five. That run started with a two-point bucket from senior guard Jason Waterman.
After Iron Mountain responded with a two-pointer of its own, Miners senior guard Drew Lindberg hit a corner three to make it 35-26. A layup from Waterman followed that along with a pair of free throws from senior forward Chas Kumpula to make it 35-30.
Wonders ended the run with a drive and layup with under five seconds to play to make the Mountaineers lead seven at the break.
A 7-2 run in the third gave I-M a 15 point lead at 51-36, its largest of the night thus far, which is the likely point the game was put away for good.
The Miners were led by Sager with 15 points while Waterman and Lindberg added nine. Munson and senior guard Drew DuShane added seven apiece while Kumpula finished with four.
Iron Mountain shot 24 of 65 from the field while grabbing 36 rebounds. Feira led the boards category with 10. Shooting and rebounding statistics for Negaunee weren’t immediately available.
Iron Mountain hosts UPSSA No. 5 Westwood (7-3) on Thursday. Negaunee visits Manistique (2-9) on Friday.
Iron Mountain 20 17 18 14 — 69
Negaunee 14 16 7 14 — 51
Iron Mountain — Johnson 19, Wonders 18, Feira 12, Dumais 11, Brown 9. FT: 14-24.
Negaunee — Waterman 9, Sager 15, Lindberg 9, DuShane 7, Kumpula 4, Munson 7. FT: 13-18.