Braves fall against Mountaineers
IRON MOUNTAIN — Despite getting off to what can be considered a slow start in comparison to their customary full speed ahead type beginning to basketball games, Iron Mountain regrouped and played a much better second half and powered past Gladstone 64-39 Monday night.
Foster Wonders led all scorers with 30 points in the Mid Peninsula Conference matchup. Rane Castor led the Braves with 12 points in the contest, while teammate Cam Ballard chipped in 10 points.
The game started off with Gladstone showing a unique style of defense. In essence, it was something that Iron Mountain hadn’t seen before, and it took them some getting used to it.
For most of the game, there were two to three Braves’ defenders on Wonders, each time he got the basketball. But it was also a “help” type zone defense, which disrupted the Mountaineers’ customary offensive flow.
“I take a lot of pride in how our defense is each game,” said Braves head coach Mike Cretens. “It’s a 1-3-1, but it may not appear like it to some people. But Foster (Wonders) is a different beast.”
“Gladstone has some pretty good athletes, and they were very well prepared defensively,” said Mountaineers head coach Harvey “Bucky” Johnson. “I give them credit for their game plan.”
Iron Mountain seniors Ricky Brown and Caleb Evosevich-Hynes were able to knock down some timely trifectas to keep the home team within striking distance. With three minutes left in the game, the Braves were leading 9-6, but Brown buried a three to tie the game.
However, it was the visitors who led by a pair at the end of the first. Gladstone’s confidence on both ends of the floor in the second stanza continued throughout.
The score remained close and back and forth to some degree. With 4:53 remaining, the Mountaineers tied it at 15, and Johnson called a timeout. Though, it was the Braves who continued to play smart and efficiently and were able to take a one-point lead into the intermission.
“Tonight was the first time we were tested in the first half, and I thought the kids really responded well,” Johnson stated. “We had a great third quarter and the fourth quarter was great too.”
Once the second half began, it was all Mountaineers. In the first 3:20, IM went on a 10-3 scoring run to take the lead 31-25. Braves head coach Mike Cretens called a timeout to try to stop Iron Mountain’s momentum, but it was to no avail, as Gladstone began turning the ball over.
“Turnovers is what killed us tonight, especially in the second half,” Cretens said. “We averaged 18 turnovers per game in lots of the games we’ve lost, and that’s how many we had tonight.”
As the Braves turnovers racked up, the Mountaineers’ lead grew. Castor banked in a 3-pointer at the buzzer of the third quarter, but the Mountaineers led by double digits by that point.
What also didn’t help matters for the Braves is their offense went flat in the second half, losing their crisp ball movement and timely shot selection.
In the final quarter and throughout most of the second half, the Mountaineers stepped up their defense, both in intensity and ball hawking, which is what caused several of the Braves’ turnovers. Gladstone was never able to regroup from the dominating third quarter of the Mountaineers, and the fourth quarter went the same as the third.
“Everyone who played tonight gave us positive minutes. Joey Dumais stepped in for Jurgen (Kleiman), who got in foul trouble,” Johnson added.
Johnson noted that the Braves Great Northern Conference schedule is strong and that they’re better than their record may indicate.
“We didn’t keep our offense free flowing in the second half or do any of the things we know we need to do to make our offense successful,” Cretens added.
The Braves (4-5) won the JV contest over Iron Mountain.
Iron Mountain (9-0, 1-0 Mid Pen, 5-0 West PAC), travels to Negaunee Thursday night and Ishpeming on Friday night, for two dual conference matchups.
Gladstone 11 11 8 9 — 39
Iron Mtn 9 12 22 23 — 64
Gladstone — Kelly 2, Polley 5, Ballard 10, Hughes 2, Castor 12, Bernson 8; FT: 3-4; F: 9; Fouled Out: None; 3-point FG: Castor 2, Ballard.
Iron Mountain — Wonders 30, Brown 8, Pietrantonio 4, Evosevich-Hynes 8, Basanese 4, Dumais 2, Colavecchi 6, Runsat 2; FT: 11-17; F: 7; Fouled Out: None; 3-point FG: Brown 2, Wonders, Evosevich-Hynes 2.