Lids Team Sports/The Bar of Green Bay outlasts Chris Boykins Outlawz of Lansing for second NIT Class A title in three years

NEGAUNEE – Chris Boykins Outlawz of Lansing made comebacks all weekend as they dug their way out of the losers bracket and into the Class A championship of the 49th annual Negaunee Invitational Basketball Tournament.

They survived double-digit margins, an overtime thriller and hit a buzzer beater to make it to the finals.

Unfortunately for the Outlawz, who played five games on Sunday and three in a row, Lids Team Sports/The Bar of Green Bay was watching and more importantly, resting.

“We’re not the fastest, youngest, quickest guys, but we feel like if we can push it we might get some easy baskets,” said Lids forward Jeff Nordgaard. “That definitely was our mindset against a team that’s played a bunch of games because you could tell they were tired. Right from the jump they were tired.”

The strategy paid off, as Lids Team Sports/The Bar found easy buckets all night en route to a 79-62 win in the Class A final.

Lids Team Sports won the Class A championship in 2011, but fell short last year. The team tweaked the roster this year and Nordgaard said he believed the move paid off.

“This year we brought two more shooters,” Nordgaard said. “Bringing Deion James and Mike Hojnacki added a lot. Really in my opinion, what it was is that we brought two shooters we didn’t have last year, so to have four shooters on the team it makes it really tough to defend everyone.”

The extra shooters helped space the floor, as Lids Team Sports/The Bar was able to find the open man all game. Lids leading scorer Kon Knueppel poured in a game-high 29 points, including five 3-pointers, while Nordgaard added 19 points and connected on four shots from beyond-the-arc.

“We’ve got a lot of guys this year who can really fill it up, so when we’re shooting we’re hard to beat,” Nordgaard said. “The way we play with our screens and our movement can give people a hard time, especially when they’ve played five games in one day.”

The fatigue started to take its toll on Chris Boykins Outlawz as point guard JuJuan Cooley was battling cramps on a team that was already short of players.

“When you come from the losers bracket, it’s tough, but we made it back,” Cooley said. “We played five games today and we just ran out of gas. It’s kind of hard when you got seven people and we got tired, but we gave it our all.”

Lids Team Sports/The Bar went into halftime with a 51-32 lead and kept the pressure on in the second half as their lead hovered around 20 points for most of the game.

“Even at halftime we were up 20, but we had seen how they had comeback and won some close games so we knew it wasn’t a lock and we had to keep pushing it at them,” Knueppel said.

Knueppel was a big part of that push as his scoring efforts helped shoot down any chance of an Outlawz comeback. He was also named the Class A MVP, which even surprised him.

“I can’t believe it, I’m 37 years old,” he said. “I’ve been playing this for a long time so it’s really amazing. I’ve got five boys at home and I can’t wait to go tell them.”

For Knueppel and the rest of the Lids Team Sports squad, it’s the volunteers that keep them coming back to the NITs.

“It’s such a well run tournament and the staff is always so helpful and wonderful to us that it makes it worthwhile to comeback,” he said. “It’s wonderful to get together with your good friends and play basketball. It really doesn’t get much better than that.”