ISHPEMING - Bobby Zhulkie made sure the Ishpeming High School boys basketball team's 2013-14 home debut was a success Thursday night.
The senior guard buried two 3-point shots in the final 38.1 seconds to rally the Hematites to a 61-59 Mid-Peninsula Conference victory over Gwinn.
Zhulkie, who finished with 20 game points, nailed the winning shot with 4.1 seconds left to lift IHS- whose season started late after the school's state football playoff run - to a 4-2 overall record and 2-1 league mark.
Ishpeming senior Bobby Zhulkie, center, looks to pass as Gwinn seniors Owen DeVooght, left, and Alex More, right, try to block him on Thursday at the IHS gymnasium in Ishpeming. (Journal photo by Adelle Whitefoot)
"It felt good," Zhulkie said of his winning trey. "But I wasn't sure it was going in until it went through the rim.
"In the first half, I couldn't get anything to go in offensively. But in the second half, I got better. I started hitting more shots."
IHS head coach Jeff Olson said the winning bucket wasn't from a play designed for Zhulkie.
Ishpeming 61, Gwinn 59
Summary (field goals, free throws, total points)
GWINN - Beauchamp, 4-5-13; Mottes, 1-2-4; Morse, 7-1-20; Schmeltzer, 1-0-2; DeVooght, 4-6-14; Skinner, 2-2-6. Totals, 19-16-59.
ISHPEMING - Briones, 4-0-9; Suardini, 0-1-1; Lorin, 4-2-10; Zhulkie, 6-4-20; Corp. 4-0-8; DeCaire, 4-4-13. Totals, 22-11-61.
Score by quarters:
Gwinn13 13 16 17 - 59
Ishpeming 9 19 13 20 - 61
FG shooting: Gwinn, 19 of 42 (42.5 percent); Ishpeming, 22 of 58 (37.9 percent); FT shooting: Gwinn, 16 of 25 (64 percent); Ishpeming, 11 of 18 (61.1 percent); Rebounding, Gwinn, 27 (Justin Beauchamp, 9 ); Ishpeming, 31 (Alex Briones, 11).
"We wanted to get the ball inside to (Alex) Briones and then have a back door cut with (Ozzy) Corp," he said. "But Gwinn didn't bite and Bobby just improvised."
After Jesse Mottes had canned a pair of free throws to put Gwinn up 59-55, Zhulkie set up his winning shot with a 3-pointer.
"He hit two huge shots," Gwinn head coach Darren Sinnaeve, "both with a hand in his face (defensively). He just shot over someone.
"We didn't think they would try a 3. It's a tougher shot.
"We're all disappointed (with the loss), but we did an outstanding job," he added. "We learned a lot about ourselves in this game."
The Modeltowners (4-3, 4-1), playing without senior guard-forward Justin Nyquist due to a concussion he suffered Tuesday against Gladstone, got 20 points from Alex Morse, who sank five triples.
"He had an outstanding game shooting," Sinnaeve said. "He'll draw some attention (from defenses) now."
Gwinn's Owen DeVooght added 14 points and Justin Beauchamp chipped in 13 to go with a team-high nine rebounds.
For Ishpeming, Derek DeCaire complemented Zhulkie's output with 13 points. Teammate Mitch Laurin contributed 10.
Gwinn took a 13-7 lead late in the first quarter.
"We just didn't play good defense," Zhulkie said.
Ishpeming came back with a 17-2 run, however, to grab a 24-15 advantage midway through the second stanza behind seven points from Briones and four from DeCaire.
"Coach told us at halftime to fly around and be more physical," Zhulkie said.
With Ishpeming leading 28-26 at the half, the two teams traded points the rest of the way. The last two quarters saw 17 lead changes.
"There never seemed to be more than a two-point lead by either of us," Sinnaeve said. "It was an outstanding high school basketball game."
Olson said his team's composure was the key to the IHS win.
"We didn't put our heads down," he said. "We just had a will to win."
Ishpeming won the junior varsity game, 75-53.