Prep boys basketball: Ishpeming rips Westwood to set up rematch with Negaunee in Class C district final

NEGAUNEE – They got what they wanted Wednesday night: a chance to take on host Negaunee at 7 p.m. on Friday for an MHSAA Class C district tournament title.

But coach Jeff Olson and his Ishpeming High School boys basketball team know they’ll have to be at the top of their game to beat the Miners.

“They’re the No. 1 (Class ABC) team in the peninsula and have the two best players (in Tyler Jandron and Eric Lori),” Olson said after his club manhandled Westwood 78-44 Wednesday in a district semifinal.

“We’ll have to do everything right, but we have guys who are capable of doing that. We’re competitive and mentally tough.

“We’ll just have to put the ball in the basket,” he added.

The Hematites (16-4) did just that against the Patriots (6-12), sinking 62 percent of their shots (31 of 50) and putting three players in double figures scoring-wise.

Derek DeCaire led the way with 20 points. Alex Briones added 17 to go with a team-high 13 rebounds and six assists, while teammate Bobby Zhulkie chipped in 10 points.

“We need that from DeCaire,” Olson said. “He can be a great scorer.”

Westwood coach Ryan Reichel said Ishpeming’s scoring balance is hard to stop.

“Many teams have Batman and Robin, but they have Spiderman, too,” Reichel said. “With that third guy to step up, it’s a tough team to guard.”

DeCaire notched nine of his points in the first quarter and together with seven from Briones, the Hematites grabbed a 20-7 lead after eight minutes.

“We were focused and ready to play,” Olson said. “The kids played hard and got off to a quick start.”

But the Patriots regrouped and outscored IHS 13-9 in the second quarter to trail by just nine points, 29-20, at the half.

Dre Tuominen (five) and Mitch Messing (four) combined for nine of those Patriot points.

“It was a nine-point game after we missed the front end of five 1-and-1s, too,” Reichel said. “We were a lot more patient and got some shots to fall in the second quarter.”

Added Olson: “It was our worst shooting quarter after being 9 of 11 in the first. We let up a little in the second, but I told the kids at the half I just wanted them to keep playing hard.”

The Hematites took Olson’s words to heart, outscoring the Patriots 24-11 in the third stanza.

“We were more focused and moved the ball better,” Olson said after Ozzie Corp knocked down eight points, Zhulkie six and Briones five in the stanza.

“Size wears on us,” Reichel said. “We didn’t come out quite strong enough in the third quarter.”

The Hematites went on scoring runs of eight, seven and six points in a 25-point final quarter, ending any hopes the Patriots had of cutting the final deficit to single digits.

Luke Woods and Tuominen netted nine points each to pace Westwood. Luke Duquette hauled down six boards.

“Our game plan was to play 30-pass basketball (before shooting),” Reichel said. “But give Ishpeming credit. They pressed us and we couldn’t do that.”