Bay stung by Yellow Jackets
ESCANABA — So close and yet so far.
The Bay College men were within a heartbeat of the Region 13 basketball title but were unable to convert on their final possession in a 66-65 loss to Rochester (Minn.) Community & Technical College in Sunday’s championship game.
Rochester (12-5) will host its next post-season contest Saturday. Bay finished 9-15.
The Yellowjackets took a 66-63 lead on a turn-around jump shot by sophomore guard Devyn Frye with 66 seconds left to play.
Bay closed within 66-65 on a layup by sophomore wing Chris Dobessi with 48.2 seconds remaining.
Rochester then failed to score on its next possession, giving it back to the Norse with 15.7 seconds left.
The Norse brought the ball downcourt, and the Yellowjackets called time-put with nine seconds remaining.
With 0.8 seconds left, the Norse turned the ball over for only the 11th time in the tournament.
Following a Norse time-out, the Yellowjackets sealed the victory by inbounding the ball and running out the clock.
“The time-out with nine seconds left was a smart move on their part,” said Bay coach Matt Johnson. “We were supposed to get the ball to the other wing, but Chris got tripped up. We just didn’t get the shot we wanted. This one was the most difficult in 15 years of coaching, no doubt. I don’t think our record shows what kind of kids we had. They were resilient. They fought through more adversity than most other groups.”
Bay reached the title contest by eliminating United Tribal College of Bismarck, N.D. 82-58 in Saturday’s semifinals for its first post-season win since 1976 when it held off Suomi College 69-68 in a district opener at Ironwood.
The Norse led 43-38 at halftime Sunday, then were outscored 28-22 in the second half.
“Our kids competed,” said Johnson, who previously coached 11 years at Hibbing (Minn.) Community College. “We just didn’t put the ball in the hole. We did a great job taking care of the ball. This is the best we’ve handled the ball all year. The guys handled the pressure real well. Hats off to Brian (coach LaPlante) and his guys. They just made more plays than we did. You can’t score 22 points in the second half against a good team and expect to win.”
The Yellowjackets scored the first eight points of the second half, taking a 46-43 lead on a layup by Frye with 15 minutes, 19 seconds remaining.
Bay shaved its deficit to 46-45 on a layup by sophomore guard Matt Wagner at 14:48.
Rochester then extended its cushion to 52-45 on a layup by the tourney’s Most Valuable Player Jerome Cunningham.
Bay regained the lead at 55-54 on a six-foot running jumper and free throw by Rapid River graduate and freshman point guard Tyler Sundling at 9:30.
The lead then changed hands four times during the remainder of the contest with the Norse going ahead for the last time on a putback by Dollar Bay grad and sophomore wing Jaden Jahnke with 4:45 remaining.
“Matt does such a great job with his program,” said LaPlante. “This was my 11th championship game, and it’s always a dogfight. There were a lot of ebbs and flows in this game. I don’t think we played well in the first half, although part of the credit goes to Bay. They neutralized our speed by being physical. We’re really undersized. We have to play fast. We really struggle when we play against physical teams.”
Iron Mountain grad and freshman point guard Marcus Johnson and Janke led the Norse with 12 points each in reserve roles. Gladstone grad and sophomore forward Joe Gibbs and Dobessi added 10 apiece.
Cunningham scored 19. Sophomore Kievonte Watts hit 13, and freshman Quincy Burland had 10 for the Yellowjackets, who held a 34-33 rebounding edge, hit 28-of-57 field goals and committed 12 turnovers.
“This was a well-run tournament,” said LaPlante. “The people here were very helpful. They really made it special for us.”
Bay finished 24-of-61 from the floor and had seven turnovers.
The Norse had just four miscues in Saturday’s victory.
Marinette grad and sophomore wing Matt Wagner led the way with 30 points, and Dobessi had 10. Freshman center Nick Valencia scored 18 points and grabbed nine rebounds for United Tribal (4-19). Sophomore Tate Bear and freshman Khalil Grant had 14 points each.
Rochester defeated Dakota College at Bottineau, N.D. 89-79 in Saturday’s other semifinal.
Cummingham scored 21 points and grabbed 10 boards. Watts hit 20 points, and Burland had 16 for the Yellowjackets.
Sophomore forward Erik Palmer sank 12-of-15 field goals and paced the Lumberjacks (4-19) with 29 points. Sophomore guard Trayvon Barney added 25 points, and freshman Marcus Kenn had 12.
Rochester 38 28 — 66
Bay College 43 22 — 65
Rochester Community & Technical College — Watts 13, Frye 6, Flenorl 7, Williams 2, Cunningham 19, Olander 5, Burland 10, McCrimon 4. FT: 7-10; F: 18; Fouled out: Williams; 3-point field goals: Flenorl, Olander, Burland.
Bay College — Gibbs 10, Dobessi 10, A. Janke 6, Wagner 7, Johnson 12, Sundling 3, J. Janke 12, Ngambo 2, Henderson 3. FT: 12-17; F: 14; Fouled out: None; 3-point field goals: A, Janke 2, Johnson 2, Wagner.