GWINN - On a night when the Gwinn High School boys basketball team made just 11 of 26 free throws, the Modeltowners sank just enough late to advance to the MHSAA Class C district championship game.
GHS canned six charity stripe tosses in the final 3:49 of play to hold off visiting Ishpeming on Wednesday night, 55-51.
Derek Reetz made four of those free throws en route to a team-high 15 points as the Modeltowners improved to 15-6 on the season.
Ishpeming junior Derek DeCaire (33) goes for a layup with Gwinn junior Luke Sinnaeve (0) defending during an MHSAA Class C district semifinal game played at the Modeltowners gym on Wednesday. (Journal photo by Steve Brownlee)
Gwinn will now host Negaunee (20-1) at 7 p.m. Friday for the district title. The Miners knocked off Westwood on Wednesday night, 60-34.
"It was a battle," GHS head coach Darren Sinnaeve said of his team's win. "We're not horrible at the line (55.8 percent on the season), but not real good, either.
"But the kids were resilient, even though Ishpeming made a couple of runs on us."
The Modeltowners, who also got 11 points from Owen DeVooght, held leads of 26-13 in the second quarter and 42-31 early in the fourth, but they couldn't put the Hematites away until the final minutes.
"The effort was there," Ishpeming head coach John Tiziani said. "We scrapped and fought well, but we had open looks mat the basket in the end and couldn't put them down.
"Maybe we were too tired or just not on our shooting game."
Of 55 shots the Hematites attempted, 20 were from beyond the 3-point arc. They made just four.
"We could have been more patient (on offense)," Tiziani said. "Our offensive execution was not A-plus."
Alex Briones led Ishpeming with 18 points. Joe Lyle added 14 and Derek DeCaire 13 off the bench.
With Reetz scoring 11 points in the first half, the Modeltowners - who broke out to a 9-2 lead - held a 29-25 advantage at intermission.
"We started off slow ... and had 10 turnovers in the first half," Tiziani said. "We had 15 for the game and you just can't give 15 scoring chances away."
With Gwinn up by 11 in the first 25 seconds of the final quarter on a bucket by Justin Beauchamp underneath off a nice pass from Reetz, the Hematites then went on an 8-0 run.
Lyle scored six of those points to get his team to within 42-39 with 5:54 left.
Beauchamp and DeVooght then sank shots in close off Reetz passes, and DeVooght hit a free throw, to give the Modeltowners a 47-39 lead.
"When we caught (Ishpeming) with a down screen, Beauchamp and DeVooght were wide open underneath and Reetz found them," Sinnaeve said.
"Our full court press in the game took (the Hematites) out of their offensive rhythm and we rebounded well, too. We have some athletes and got good elevation."
Gwinn, with Reetz leading the way with nine caroms, outrebounded Ishpeming 32-21.
For Ishpeming, it was a disappointing end to a difficult season.
The Hematites started late due to the school's football team winning a state championship and then visiting New York for a Sports Illustrated awards dinner.
Ishpeming also lost star guard Alex Briones for more than half the season to a foot injury he suffered in football.
"We started (the season) a month late and never got into rhythm," Tiziani said. "It put us behind.
"But we started tonight's game with four juniors and a freshman. We're going to come back with five outstanding underclassmen."
Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251.