Prep boys basketball: Negaunee meets Cinderella opponent in MHSAA Class C state quarterfinal

NEGAUNEE – The Negaunee High School boys basketball team intends to smash the famous glass slipper of its upcoming Cinderella opponent.

For the fourth straight year, the 23-1 Miners have advanced to the MHSAA Class C quarterfinals, this year against East Jordan at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Petoskey.

The Red Devils – yes, this team has the same nickname as Negaunee’s last opponent, Ironwood – historically hasn’t tasted much success at any level in the postseason.

This month they’ve ended a number of streaks, the longest a 61-year drought as a regional champion, according to online reports from the Petoskey News-Review.

Their 19-4 record is a big turnaround from the previous year’s 4-16 mark, but it’s no fluke.

One of their district victims was 20-2 Boyne City, which was ranked one spot behind Negaunee at No. 4 in the final Associated Press state poll.

East Jordan won the regional title by knocking off Beaverton, which had taken out two top-10 teams in its district.

Miners coach Mike O’Donnell anticipates the game will come down to which team can best exploit its advantage – Negaunee’s size or East Jordan’s quickness.

“They probably have the quickest and best slashing guard we’ve seen in the tournament,” he said about 5-foot-9 senior Noah Baccus.

O’Donnell been studying film of East Jordan ever since his team’s last game, a 70-45 victory over those other Red Devils on Wednesday for the regional title.

“They’re a very perimeter-oriented team. (Donny) Cutler is another point guard they have who’s a slasher, but can also shoot it…. They also have another good shooter on the wing, the coach’s son, Jordan Weber. He can make them from anywhere 25 feet and in.”

The NHS coach compared East Jordan, located 20 miles southwest of Petoskey, to Negaunee’s first regional opponent, St. Ignace.

The biggest difference is that EJ doesn’t have a big man like the Saints’ 6-3 Gage Kreski, who worked inside for several layups before the Miners adjusted.

“They’re similar (to St. Ignace) in how they attack you from the perimeter,” O’Donnell said. “Every one of their starters won’t hesitate to shoot it.”

He said his big men, 6-5 senior Zane Radloff and 6-3 sophomore Jay Lori, have learned to guard on the perimeter because of what previous opponents have presented.

“Like St. Ignace, they change it up from a zone to a stingy man-to-man, and they’ll put a little full-court pressure on,” the coach said about the Devils’ defense.

With Negaunee’s top two point producers, senior guards Tyler Jandron and Eric Lori, garnering plenty of attention from defenses in the postseason, the other three starters have picked up their scoring.

For the season, Jandron averages 17.2 ppg and Eric Lori 16.5 ppg, with Radloff and Jay Lori closer to 9 ppg.

But in four tourney games, Radloff and Jay Lori are both scoring at a 13.3 ppg clip, with Eric Lori at 16 ppg and Jandron just 11 ppg. Fifth starter Rob Loy is also a point above his season average at 6.0 ppg in the playoffs.

“They’ve kind of found their roles in the offense and now they’re becoming more consistent,” O’Donnell said.

He added that Jandron still finds a way to fill the stat sheet in other ways. For example, against Ironwood, last year’s all-stater added to an 11-point night with seven assists, four rebounds and three steals.

“They tried to take him away as an option, but he got the ball to our other people,” O’Donnell said.

Tuesday’s winner faces a tall task in the semifinals, playing the winner of a Detroit-area quarterfinal between AP No. 1 Mount Clemens and No. 2 Detroit Consortium at 2:50 p.m. Thursday at Michigan State University.

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.