NEGAUNEE - As the No. 1 Class ABC team in the Upper Peninsula, the Negaunee boys will be favored in any district or regional tournament basketball game they play this month.
But Gwinn presented the Miners with one of their toughest problems to solve - several big, athletic players.
Negaunee needed more than 3 1/2 quarters to solve the riddle before pulling away for a 64-51 victory in an MHSAA Class C district semifinal at Lakeview Memorial Gymnasium on Wednesday.
Negaunee High School senior Eric Lori, front, drives past Gwinn High School senior Justin Nyquist (24) on Wednesday at Lakeview Memorial Gymnasium in Negaunee. (Journal photo by Amy Treloar)
The 20-1 Miners advance to the district final at 7 p.m. on Friday against Ishpeming, which dispatched Westwood in the evening's early game.
The Modeltowners, who finished their season at 11-10, forced Negaunee to look for scoring options other than their usual senior guards Tyler Jandron and Eric Lori, and the Miners found one in another senior, 6-foot-5 forward/center Zane Radloff.
Radloff finished with a game-high and career-high 22 points, with 15 of them coming in the second half.
MHSAA CLASS C DISTRICT CHAMPIONSHIP TICKET INFO:
- Ishpeming at Negaunee, 7 p.m., Friday, Lakeview Memorial Gymnasium
- Pre-Sale tickets will be sold at the Negaunee High School office today from 7:30 a.m.-3 p.m. All tickets are $5 and no passes will be accepted. The game will begin at 7 p.m. and doors at Lakeview will open at 6 p.m.
Negaunee 64, Gwinn 51
Summary (field goals, free throws, total points)
GWINN - Beauchamp, 4-3-11; Mottes, 2-0-6; Morse, 1-1-4; Nyquist, 7-2-18; Skinner, 5-2-12. Totals, 19-8-51.
NEGAUNEE - Radloff, 9-4-22; E. Lori, 9-1-21; Jandron, 4-1-11; J. Lori, 2-4-8; Loy, 1-0-2. Totals, 25-10-64.
Score by quarters:
Gwinn 16 9 18 8 - 51
Negaunee 15 11 15 23 - 64
FG shooting: Gwinn, 19 of 39 (48.7 percent); Negaunee, 25 of 55 (45.5 percent); FT shooting: Gwinn, 8 of 16 (50 percent); Negaunee, 10 of 16 (62.5 percent); Rebounding, Gwinn, 18 (Justin Nyquist, 10); Negaunee, 37 (Jay Lori, 17).
"Once we were able to start going at them, get some steals and make some fast breaks and 'and-ones,' we were able to open things up," Radloff said about the game's final few minutes.
Just as important was the contribution of sophomore forward Jay Lori, who nearly equaled Gwinn's 18 rebounds with 17 of his own, including 10 on the offensive glass.
"Jay, he saved us in the first half," NHS coach Mike O'Donnell said. "We weren't hitting shots, just really struggling on offense.
"If he doesn't get the rebounds and give us a second chance to make some shots and draw some fouls, I don't know where we would've been.
"As poorly as we played, we still had a one-point lead at the half."
Negaunee carried a 26-25 lead into halftime, which was more indicative of the game than the final score. In fact, there were 20 lead changes and eight ties, the last coming at 50-50 with 3:35 left when Modeltowners 5-foot-6 senior guard Jesse Mottes lofted up a rainbow 3-pointer from the top of the key.
Twenty seconds later, his Miner counterpart Eric Lori intercepted a backcourt pass for an easy layup and 52-50 lead.
Then came a play that proved pivotal.
Gwinn looked to re-tie the score with 2:49 to go when senior forward Kylor Skinner made one of his numerous strong moves to the basket and hit a turnaround lay-in.
Instead, he was whistled for charging, his fifth foul, and he was out of the game.
Jandron sensed blood in the water, hitting back-to-back shots. The first was a triple from the high right side. The second was a pull-up, eight-foot jumper to make it 57-50 with 1:57 to go.
Negaunee added another 7-1 run to finish the game and seal its victory.
"Two good teams were going at it for 30 minutes, then unfortunately one offensive foul call seemed to change the complexion of the game," Gwinn coach Darren Sinnaeve said. "That's when the floodgates just opened."
It was the fourth offensive charging foul called in the game, three of them coming in the fourth quarter. All the previous ones were called on Negaunee.
"But we knew if we were going to beat the (Mid-Peninsula) Conference champions, it would have to be in a close game that came down to the wire," Sinnaeve said. "It looked like both teams shot close to 50 percent from the floor. We just had trouble at the line and with giving up a ton of offensive boards."
Eric Lori finished with 21 points while Jandron added 11 points and nine assists. Jay Lori scored eight points.
For Gwinn, senior guard-forward Justin Nyquist scored 18 points, pulled down 10 rebounds and dished out four assists. Skinner added 12 points and junior Justin Beauchamp 11.