Prep boys basketball: Taller Mountaineers hold off scrappy Patriots, 58-52
ISHPEMING – With the jump ball in the center circle to start the game, it didn’t look like a fair fight.
But Westwood worked to overcome an appreciable height disadvantage before falling to Iron Mountain, 58-52, in a Mid-Peninsula Conference boys basketball game at the Patriots gym on Thursday night.
“Our boys did a good job scrapping out there all the way through,” WHS coach Ryan Reichel said. “I don’t think any of our starters were as tall as any of theirs.”
That wasn’t quite true, though the aptly named Mountaineers – at least on this night – had no starter under 6-feet, while the tallest Westwood could boast was Luke Woods – actually listed as a guard – at 6-2.
“I like to think of our guys as a five-guard lineup,” Reichel said.
That was evident following the opening tip, not surprisingly won by Iron Mountain.
In their first league contest this season, the Patriots (1-3) scrapped and clawed with a pressure defense, often the full length of the court, and made a number of steals and caused IM to commit other turnovers, too.
On offense, Justin Luke sank four 3-pointers and Woods three as Westwood made eight long-range shots in all. Luke led all scorers with 17 points, Woods had 15 and another senior Patriot, Luke Duquette, finished with 10 points and a team-high five rebounds.
The Mountaineers (4-2, 3-1) dominated the boards and often had an easy time working the ball inside to their big men, including their pair of 6-5 centers, junior Jacob Thomann and senior Zach Caudell.
Thomann finished with 12 points and nine rebounds while Caudell had nine points and six rebounds.
“Coach wanted us to pound it inside,” Caudell said about IM mentor Harvey “Bucky” Johnson.
“We did a good job working it inside in the first half,” Johnson said. “But then our offense got stuck for awhile in the third quarter. I think we were stuck forever on 41 (points).
“But the guys made the plays when they had to. We had some key rebounds.”
He agreed that the key was the play of his guards, who took the brunt of Westwood’s pressure.
“Brock Grenier played particularly well throughout the game, and Jack Merrill in the second half stepped it up for us,” Johnson said.
Merrill led IM scorers with 13 points, while Grenier contributed nine points and three assists.
Led by Grenier with three, steals were also part of IM’s repertoire, particularly in the final three minutes after the Patriots twice whittled seven-point deficits down to two.
The only leads Westwood had were at 2-0 and 4-2 in the game’s opening minute.
IM built its lead to as many as 12 points at 31-19 late in the first half before Luke hit his third 3-pointer of the second quarter as the buzzer sounded to pull his team back within 33-25 at the break.
The Patriots narrowed the deficit to four points several times during the third quarter, including 41-37 entering the final eight minutes. A free throw by junior Mitchell Messing got Westwood within 41-40 as IM’s lead ebbed and flowed the rest of the way.
Luke and senior Luke Duquette each made acrobatic baseline drives to get the Pats within two down the stretch, but a few other rushed shots that came up short forced Westwood to foul IM while in the double bonus during the final minute.
“Yes, (Iron Mountain’s) length was intimidating to our guys,” Reichel said.
Grenier and Caudell each made 3 of 4 free throws in the last 55 ticks to ice the result.
IM also won the JV game, 55-38.