GWINN - Facing a steep uphill battle as a big underdog on Wednesday night, Westwood boys basketball coach Ryan Reichel had to pick his poison.
"We had to try to stop their guards," the Patriots coach said about his team's opponent, Mid-Peninsula Conference champ Negaunee, in the opening round of the MHSAA Class C district tournament.
"That's where they average all their points. I would rather take my chances with their big guys than where I know they'll kill us."
Westwood sophomore Trevor Burke (4) dribbles around Negaunee junior defender Eric Lori during an MHSAA Class C district semifinal game played at Gwinn High School on Wednesday. (Journal photo by Steve Brownlee)
Nevertheless, those big guys came through for the Miners in their 60-34 victory at Gwinn High School, advancing 20-1 Negaunee to the district championship against Wednesday's other winner, the host Modeltowners, at 7 p.m. Friday.
Westwood did its best job by slowing down M-PC Player of the Year Tyler Jandron, who was held to just six points after the point guard averaged 17.5 points per game in the regular season.
Fellow junior guard Eric Lori, the team's No. 2 scorer at 13.1 ppg, had 10 points, though he added team highs of six steals and five assists.
Instead, Negaunee's 6-foot-7 senior forward-center Brock Weaver and 6-3 senior swingman Tanner Uren each scored a game-high 15 points. While Uren has a reputation as a scorer and hit at a 11.9 points-per-game clip this season, Weaver averages just 6.8 ppg and is known more for under-the-basket defense and rebounding.
"We took what they gave us," said Weaver, who finished with a game-high six rebounds.
"They were really focusing on Tyler and Eric, and that opened things up for me, Tanner and Andrew (Katona). I was able to make some easy cuts to the hole because our guards were getting us the ball."
Katona finished with five points as Negaunee led from start to finish. The Patriots (5-15) pulled within 5-4 near the midpoint of the first quarter, but a two-minute-long 7-0 run by the Miners ended any hopes of Westwood really getting back into the game.
"Actually, it could've been worse," Reichel said. "They missed some layups, but we also missed three layups in a row when we were down 13 that could've gotten us back in it.
"You have to make every one of those layups when you're playing a team as good as Negaunee. I said before the season started that I thought they were good enough to be state champs.
"I'm still hoping I get to see them on TV in a few weeks. I think it would be great exposure for players like Tyler Jandron, to let the folks downstate see how good he really is."
Anchored by Weaver on the inside, the Miners badgered Westwood into making just 19 percent from the field (8 of 43), though they did hit on 17 of 24 free throws.
Junior Justin Luke led the Pats with nine points, while senior Travis Swanson added six points and five rebounds.
Holding a 28-12 halftime lead, Negaunee scored 20 points in the third quarter to bump its advantage to 48-23 entering the final period.
"We struggled when we tried to get to the hoop too quickly," NHS coach Mike O'Donnell said. "When we moved the ball around and took the extra pass, we were more successful."
Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246.