Negaunee hoping to return to MHSAA state championship game for first time since 2000

NEGAUNEE – He was determined Wednesday to find out as much as he could about the Laingsburg High School boys basketball team.

But Negaunee High School coach Mike O’Donnell says no matter how much he learns about the Miners’ MHSAA Class C state semifinal opponent today, it’s all about how his team performs at this point of the season.

“It comes down now to just playing basketball, what we’ve been doing all season,” he said in looking at today’s 2:50 p.m. matchup with the Wolfpack at the Breslin Center in East Lansing.

“You just use the root fundamentals on offense and defense, falling back to things you’ve been doing all season.”

What the Miners have been doing is compiling a 24-1 season record, averaging 65 points a game offensively (regular season) and allowing just 41.3 points per game behind defensive specialist Andrew Katona, a senior guard.

“We talk about defense constantly,” O’Donnell said. “You can have off-shooting nights, but with solid defense, you can create offense.”

He noted that Laingsburg, from what he has been able to determine, is also a defensive team.

“They only gave up 35 points a game this season,” said O’Donnell, now 149-46 in his eighth season at the Miners’ helm. “They pride themselves on a full-court man defense.”

Offensively, NHS boasts a balanced attack led by junior point guard and Mid-Peninsula Conference Player of the Year Tyler Jandron. The Associated Press Class C All-State selection averaged a team-leading 17.5 points during the regular season, but fired in 36 points Tuesday in Negaunee’s 56-55 quarterfinal win over Maple city Glen Lake.

“He took over the game offensively,” O’Donnell said. “He was very efficient in his shooting, too. He made 12 of 17 and all were within our offensive sets.”

Junior guard Eric Lori averages 13.4 points, senior forward Tanner Uren 12.0 and senior center Brock Weaver 7.0. Uren (6.1) and Weaver (4.9) combine for 11 rebounds a game. O’Donnell said NHS, which made the state semifinals in 2008 and last won the Class C title in 2000, gained some confidence Tuesday night in how to deal with pressure situations.

“Going in, it was a concern with how we’d respond to adversity and a tight game,” he said. “But when the players came to the bench at the fourth quarter break, they were all saying ‘we’re fine, we’ve got this.’

“All I had to do as a coach was echo those things.”

The NHS coach said there are several keys to beating Laingsburg today.

“We’re going to have to take care of the ball, handle their pressure and run motion sets on offense,” O’Donnell said. “On defense, we’ll have to make sure they don’t slash to the basket.”

Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251.