Carney boys’ run finished by Rudyard
SAULT STE. MARIE — Rudyard has been on a postseason roll, firing on all cylinders since the tournament tipped off.
That roll continues, and the Bulldogs are back in the state semifinals for the first time since 1963.
The Bulldogs cruised past the Carney-Nadeau Wolves 76-48 in a Division 4 boys basketball quarterfinal at the Sault High School gym Tuesday night.
All starting five players scored in double figures for the Bulldogs, who were led by Austin Warner and EJ Suggitt with 16 points apiece.
“We knew Rudyard hasn’t been to the Final Four since 1963, so this is a special moment and we’re really excited about it,” Tate Besteman said. “We had a lot of guys step up tonight. It’s been that way all season.”
Carney-Nadeau finishes 13-9. Senior Beau Koffman led the Wolves with 20 points.
The Wolves came into the quarterfinal with some momentum of their own, and it was a close game all the way through the first half. Carney-Nadeau led 14-12 after a back-and-forth first quarter but trailed by eight at the half after a 16-6 second-quarter surge by the Bulldogs.
“We were down eight at the half, and we didn’t really want to be in that position,” Carney-Nadeau coach Paul Polfus said. “We were still in it, and we matched them for a couple baskets in the third quarter. But then we just went cold. For us to stay in this game, with their size advantage, we have to make shots. We didn’t do that consistently, and when you start to get down by 15 or so, it’s tough to come back against a team like Rudyard. We needed to stay close and keep grinding, but it got away from us.
“I’m still proud as heck of our kids,” Polfus said. “They made it pretty exciting at Carney-Nadeau these last two and half weeks. We came through a district nobody expected us to win, and we won what was our second regional in school history. This team just kept playing hard and playing together. They came a long way during a tough year and made some great memories. As a coach, you can’t ask much more than that.”
Rudyard exploited its size advantage early against the Wolves 1-3-1 zone, getting the ball in the post to 6-foot-5 forward Besteman. Besteman had an early dunk and put up all 12 of his points in the game in the first half.
Koffman, the Skyline Central Player of the Year, led the Wolves in the half with nine points. The Wolves hit 5-of-16 3s in the half, helping them stay close.
Rudyard led by only eight at halftime (28-20) but outscored the Wolves 48-28 in the second half. While Besteman did the early damage, the Bulldogs started to get everybody involved as they made a run to break it open. The Bulldogs heated up from the perimeter in the third quarter as Suggitt and Hayden Mills both connected on a pair of 3-pointers. Rudyard pushed its lead into double digits and led 54-35 after three quarters.
Rudyard led by as many as 26 points in the fourth quarter and did not let the Wolves back within single digits.
Cam Peterson notched 13 points, while Besteman added 12 and Mills 10. Rudyard won its fifth straight game in the tournament, with their closest game begin an 18-point victory margin.
“This is what these kids have wanted and worked for,” Rudyard coach Jim Suggitt said. “It’s just starting to hit me now, knowing how long it’s been since Rudyard has been to this point in the tournament. It’s amazing the amount of community support we’ve received and how the fans are coming out. And many of the teams we’ve played all season were here cheering for us tonight too.
“We missed a lot of shots and threw the ball away too many times in the first half,” Suggitt said. “All year, our defense has been the key to get us going and getting everything moving. We tightened up on defense, and then that kind of set the tone for the offense. We got better shots and started making them. It all came together again, and everybody contributed tonight.”
Jerry Lee LaFord finished with nine points, Michael Flanagan scored eight and Tim Hodson had seven for the Wolves. Seniors for the Wolves this season included Flanagan, Hoffman, Hodson, Jaun Maier and Robert Windsor.
“We knew Suggitt could shoot it, and we did a decent job defending him in the first half,” Polfus said. “But we couldn’t take away the big guy, Besteman. Once they started getting the ball inside, it broke our defense down. The Peterson kid did a good job of penetrating too, and they found the open man and took advantage. They can attack in a number of ways.
“Give Rudyard credit,” Polfus said. “They play well together. We wish them all the luck in the world, representing the U.P. going downstate.”
Rudyard (18-2) advances to play Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (13-2) Thursday in Grand Rapids.
Rudyard 12 16 26 22 — 76
Carney-Nadeau 14 6 15 13 — 48
Rudyard — Mills 10, Smith 4, Besteman 12, Peterson 13, Walling 2, Warner 16, McMillan 1, Suggitt 16, Zeeryp 2. FT: 11-13; F: 12; 3-point field goals: Suggitt 3, Mills 2.
Carney-Nadeau — Koffman 20, Flanagan 8, LaFord 9, Hodson 7, Kakuk 2, Windsor 2. FT: 6-14; F: 11; Fouled out: Flanagan; 3-point field goals: 8 (Koffman 3, Flanagan 2, LaFord 2, Hodson 1).