GARDEN CORNERS - Superior Central's defense keyed in on Munising's leading scorer Ben Stasewich and the plan worked. SC held the junior center to just five points.
However, the Cougars didn't account for the Mustangs' sixth man, Alex Hill, who erupted for 20 first half points to help lead his team to a 72-48 win in Monday night's MHSAA Class D district opener at Big Bay de Noc.
Hill netted 15 points in the second quarter as Munising stretched a five point lead into a 22 point advantage in a matter of eight minutes. The junior forward stayed active on the glass and in the passing lanes, grabbing offensive rebounds and forcing steals while earning multiple trips to the free throw line.
Superior Central’s Justyn Hill (41) fakes a shot as Munising’s Austin Kelto attempts a block during the third quarter of Monday’s MHSAA Class D district match-up in Garden. (Escanaba Daily Press photo by Jon Young)
"We talk about our energy level and our effort all the time and when you play hard, good things happen," Munising head coach Dan Waterman said. "You get the little bounces, you make shots. It seems like when your legs are moving fast, your brain is moving fast and Alex gave us a big spark off the bench. He's been like that for us all year. That's the kind of kid he is. He plays hard all the time."
Hill scored five points near the end of the first quarter as he helped the Mustangs build a 18-13 lead after one. Riding Hill's hot hand, Munising turned up the pressure in the second quarter and the momentum followed in the form of a 12-0 run. The Mustangs took a 30-13 lead three minutes into the second quarter, after Hill got a steal and was fouled while making the lay-up.
The Cougars committed 10 turnovers in the second quarter, many of which led to transition buckets for Munising. Superior Central head coach Herb Jenkins said his team couldn't afford to let the miscues compound.
Munising 72, Superior Central 48
Munising 18 27 17 10 - 72
S. Central 13 10 11 14 - 48
Munising - Immel 13, Kelto 13, Cercone 5, Blank 7, Ackerman 6, Hill 20, Stasewich 5, Lindbeck 3; FT: 19-32; F; 17; Fouled out: None; 3-point field goals: Immel 3, Ackerman 2.
Superior Central - B. Maki 6, Aho 7, N. Maki 10, C. Maki 5, Richmond 5, Hill 9, Seppanen 6; FT: 10-18; F: 24; Fouled out: Nick Maki; 3-point field goals: N. Maki 2, Richmond 1, C. Maki 1.
Monday's U.P. district scores
Alpena 47, Marquette 34
T.C. Central 50, Petoskey 49
T.C. West 63, Gaylord 51
Kingsford 61, Houghton 52
Iron Mountain 55, West Iron Co. 41
Ironwood 70, L'Anse 57
Harbor Springs 74, Manistique 49
Calumet 34, Hancock 23 (OT)
Munising 72, Superior Central 48
Forest Park 52, Bessemer 47
Dollar Bay 52, Ontonagon 50 (2OT)
Wakefield-Marenisco 56, Republic-Michigamme 49
Rudyard 73, Mackinaw Island 23
Carney-Nadeau 67, Stephenson 30
North Central 69, Mid Peninsula 48
North Dickinson 62, Hannahville 30
Mackinaw City 76, Engadine 48
Lake Linden-Hubbell 82, Chassell 41
"When that happens, you have to adjust because when you get down by 12 to Munising, it's like being down 25 to anybody else," Jenkins said. "They grind it out and you're going to have to beat them every single play. If you start missing shots, you get a little nervous, you have fast possessions and it causes trouble, and that's what happened."
With the increased pressure and aggressive attack on the offensive glass, Munising built a 45-23 half-time lead.
Colin Immel started the third quarter with the hot hand for Munising. The junior guard hit back-to-back 3-pointers on the Mustangs first two possessions. Superior Central's Justyn Hill responded underneath with a basket and foul. He connected on his free throw, but Munising returned the favor with another 3-pointer. Waterman noted that Stasewich is Munising's leading scorer, but his team has options.
"We had open shot after open shot on the perimeter because they're paying so much attention to Ben and that's kind of the way we work," Waterman said. "Our other guys are used to scoring too and it was nice to see them step up on a night when Ben was drawing a lot of attention."
Stasewich did manage to haul in nine rebounds as Munising outrebounded Superior Central 35-18.
Seniors Justyn Hill, Nick Maki and Cody Maki played their final games for Superior Central. Nick netted 10 points, while Cody added five. Hill chipped in nine points and drew the assignment of guarding Stasewich for the majority of the night.
"I think Justyn Hill really played well through the end of the game tonight," Jenkins said. "He's just come leaps and bounds, I'm very proud of him. Cody and Nick I've had for three years and it's sad to see them go. They're like my own kids."
Superior Central finishes the season at 4-16. The Mustangs improve to 17-3. They advance to the district semifinals where they will face Grand Marais, which had a bye, Wednesday.