CARNEY - When a great team is at the top, their players tend to walk around with a bullseye on their backs. All the other teams want to be the one to knock them down to earth.
The Munising Mustangs pulled off that feat on Monday night, going to Carney-Nadeau and dethroning the Upper Peninsula's top-ranked team in Class D, the Wolves, 40-37, effectively taking over first place in the Central Upper Peninsula Conference.
"I'm just ecstatic with the effort we put in the whole game," Munising coach Dan Waterman said. "We were able to hang around long enough, and in the fourth quarter we made some big shots.
Munising’s Ben Stasewich shoots a wide-open layup during a game against at Carney-Nadeau on Monday night in Carney. The Mustangs won, 40-37. (Escanaba Daily Press photo by Justin Marietti)
"Noah Ackerman had a huge triple to put us up by three, and it really switched the pressure from us to them."
Munising improved to 5-1 overall and 3-0 in the CUP, knocking the Wolves back to 7-1 and 5-1.
The Mustangs snapped Carney's 18-game home win streak that dated back to a loss to Superior Central on Dec. 20, 2010. The Wolves had also won 21 straight in the regular season, going back to Dec. 19, 2011.
A chippy game throughout, kept both teams from getting many good looks at the basket. After the first quarter, the Wolves held a 12-7 advantage.
C-N looked to pull away after Keenan Lampinen hit a triple to begin the second quarter, but the Mustangs worked their way inside the paint. Offensive rebounding helped keep them in the game.
Munising 6-foot senior guard Gage Webster nailed a 3-pointer from about four feet behind the line to bring the Wolves' lead back to five at halftime, 20-15.
Then the tide turned. Webster opened the third quarter with another triple and teammate Ben Stasewich repeatedly worked his way inside for easy buckets. One was a layup that tied the game 24-24, making an already physical game get even more heated for the rest of the period.
Still trailing 32-29, Munising quickly erased that with baskets from Ackerman and Stasewich for a 33-32 lead. Then tied 35-35, Ackerman hit his huge 3-pointer from the corner that proved to be the dagger.
Carney's Wade Schetter came up with a steal, and brought it in himself for a fast break layup to cut the deficit to 38-37. Then on a nice play call from Munising, Webster found a good look inside to make it 40-37 with 22 seconds to go.
Schetter got a decent look for a 3-pointer as time was winding down, but it didn't fall.
"We knew that Carney is an extremely well coached, well rounded team, and we were going to have to play really well to win," Waterman said. "And I thought our kids did that. They played extremely hard, and managed to keep it close enough to give ourselves a chance."
Webster said the win was a great achievement.
"We got some revenge from the regional finals last year when they beat us," he said. "It was an amazing win, just awesome."
Wolves coach Jake Polfus said that despite his team's success, the game was a good learning experience.
"Munising worked the ball nicely, and took us out of our style of play," he said. "They played very good defense, and (Stasewich) hurt us toward the end. We just have to learn from this and move on."
Both teams are back in action Thursday, with the Mustangs hosting Engadine and the Wolves entertaining Republic-Michigamme.
Carney won the JV game 39-29.