ESCANABA - If the Harbor Springs Rams could've scored in every quarter, it might have been a different game. The vaunted Negaunee Miners ensured that it was never close.
Using their brand of relentless pressure right from the start, Negaunee got a huge jump en route to a 64-37 victory in an MHSAA Class C regional semifinal game Monday night.
The Miners advance to the regional championship game back in Escanaba at 7 p.m. on Wednesday against Houghton, which defeated Norway 45-28 in Monday's second game.
Negaunee’s Tanner Uren rips down a rebound as Trevor Rohrer (20) and Spencer Kloss (40) of Harbor Springs look on during the third quarter of an MHSAA Class C regional semifinal game on Monday in Escanaba. (Escanaba Daily Press photo by Justin Marietti)
Negaunee forced turnovers on Harbor Springs' first five possessions and star junior guard Tyler Jandron capitalized on each one, scoring the first 10 points of the game.
And it only got worse for the Lower Peninsula visitors.
The Rams committed 15 first-quarter turnovers and had 28 altogether to Negaunee's eight.
Jandron later had a 6-0 run and finished the first quarter with 17 points as the Miners put a 23-0 whammy on Harbor Springs heading into the second quarter. Jandron finished with a game-high 25 points along with seven rebounds, six assists and five steals.
"Obviously, 23-0, that says it all right there," Negaunee coach Mike O'Donnell said. "We played well, got in our pressure and we thought it would be successful for us.
"It really created a lot of offense out of our defense, which is big because for whatever reason we weren't hitting big from the perimeter tonight."
Rams coach Geoff Morse said the poor start amounted to mental errors.
"We faced a lot of good pressure all year," he said. "We're in a conference where everyone pressures and we should have been able to handle it without question.
"We were tentative and you can't play tentative. You have to play like you believe you can play."
Negaunee increased its lead to 25-0 at the start of the second quarter before the Rams got on the board with a triple from Peter Kelbel 50 seconds in. Things then began to change.
The 3-pointer sparked a 7-0 run for Harbor Springs, which outscored Negaunee 18-13 in the quarter.
At halftime, the Miners still carried a 36-18 lead, but the Rams were charging.
Harbor Springs kept the pressure on in the third quarter as 6-foot-6 center Neal Zoerhof disrupted Miners' plays in their offensive zone. Down at the other end, 6-5 forward Spencer Kloss was able to get down low and post up as the Rams' superior size seemed to wear down Negaunee.
After a 9-2 run midway through the quarter, It was only a 10-point game, 39-29, and it briefly looked like Harbor Springs was ready to make it a game again.
"All of a sudden, there was a realization that maybe we could play with them, and from then on, we did," Morse said. "If we came out with that same intensity and thought process from the start, I think we would have been alright."
However, as soon as the Rams got it within 10, like flipping a switch, Negaunee revved back up and went on a 10-0 run to put the game out of reach.
They dazzled on offense, flipping it to 6-7 senior center Brock Weaver for reverse layups several times and getting it to senior Tanner Uren for fadeaway jumpers.
Weaver finished with 14 points and three blocks while Uren scored 13 points with seven rebounds.
The Rams had no answer once the Miners' pressure got going again.
"We called a timeout (when Harbor Springs got within 10) and talked about getting back into our full-court pressure again," O'Donnell said. "It seemed like we got going out of that timeout. We got a steal and a layup and got back into that flow of the game that's successful for us."
Kloss led the Rams with 16 points and eight rebounds.
Morse said after digging such a deep hole, his team simply ran out of gas.
"It takes a lot of energy to come back from that far down. The kids got a little gassed but give them credit. Negaunee's a great team, no question," he said.