Mountaineers, Norway for district title
By BURT ANGELI
IRON RIVER – Iron Mountain sophomore Tanner Huotari provided a fourth-quarter spark and West Iron County suffered a fatal drought in the physical Class C District 95 boys basketball semifinal Monday at Charles Greenlund Gymnasium.
Huotari scored 14 of his game-high 22 points in the final period to lift the Mountaineers past the Wykons 55-41.
Iron Mountain, up 34-30 after three quarters, netted 12 straight points – 10 from Huotari – to build a 46-30 cushion in the first three minutes of the fourth quarter.
“It was a tight game until we started hitting a few shots,” Iron Mountain Coach Bucky Johnson said. “We pressed them a little bit, changed the tempo and got some turnovers. That changed the momentum.”
West Iron County, unfortunately, has watched this story unfold all too often this season. The Wykons went more than five minutes in the first quarter without a point, trailing 11-0 until Andy Ridolphi broke the ice.
“We play with everybody and then we get that one stretch,” Wykons coach Dan Schive said. “It didn’t help that we were down 11-0 but we fought back.”
And fight they did, closing to 11-7 at the quarter and 22-20 at the half. The Wykons pulled ahead 27-26 in the third quarter.
“They hit shots and we didn’t,” Johnson said of the WIC comeback, adding that foul trouble led to defensive problems. “We rotated people because of foul trouble. We didn’t have our normal lineup in there.
“For the night, defensively, I thought we were pretty good. To hold a team to 20 points in the first half is not terrible.”
Iron Mountain’s 6-foot-5 duo of Zach Caudell and Jacob Thomann helped bring down the Wykons during the regular season. They were effective again Tuesday, combining for 20 of the Mountaineers’ 38 boards.
“That backside rebound was killing us,” said Schive, citing the Mountaineers’ work on the offensive glass. “There were a couple times where we got them into bad shots and we didn’t get a rebound.
“We didn’t have an answer all year for size. We’re just not that big. Six-five, 6-5, 6-3 kind of wears on you after a while.”
Huotari, scoreless in the first quarter, netted five points in the second quarter and three in the third before launching a pair of triples to open the fourth.
“Huotari started hitting some shots and that loosened us up,” said Johnson, noting Caudell followed with a nice inside move for a bucket after the treys.
Brock Grenier chipped in 10 points and Caudell had nine. Ridolphi led the Wykons (3-16) with 13 points and Ryan Rogers had 11 including a pair of triples in the fourth quarter to narrow the margin to 46-36.
“We got into a rhythm offensively, then we got behind by a few, started getting stagnant, started standing instead of continuing to move,” said Schive, adding that foul trouble also limited his team’s aggressiveness.”
Iron Mountain (10-10) and Norway (6-12) will settle the district title at 6 p.m. Wednesday. The Mountaineers beat the Knights twice in low-scoring regular season contests.
“They will be prepared,” Johnson said of the Coach Ben Leiker’s Knights. “They’re not going to hurt themselves. They will want to control the tempo. We just have to make sure we lock down defensively.”
In assessing the district recently, Schive looked back at his favored Wykons losing a pair of tourney finals to Norway. Last year being one example.
“Norway has proven in the past, even when they’re not supposed to win it, they win it,” Schive said. “Anybody that counts Ben out at this point in the season is an idiot, to be honest.”
Iron Mountain 11 11 12 21 – 55
West Iron 7 13 10 11 – 41
IRON MOUNTAIN: Grenier 10, Merrill 2, Beauchamp 2, Caudell 9, Thomann 5, Rossato 3, Qualley 2, Huotari 22. FT: 16-33. F: 14.
WEST IRON COUNTY: Adam Newby 9, Rogers 11, Ridolphi 13, Olson 4, Pangrazzi 2, Capadagli 2. FT: 7-9. F: 23. Fouled out: Hopkins (5:24, 4th).
3-point FG: Grenier, Huotari 2, Newby, Rogers 2. FG shooting: IM 18-60, WIC 15 made. Rebounding: IM 38 (Caudell 11, Thomann 9, Grenier 6).