NEGAUNEE - Jay Lori sometimes toils in anonymity with Negaunee High School basketball teammates Tyler Jandron and Eric Lori getting most of the attention.
Friday night, however, the sophomore forward took a major portion of the spotlight in the Miners' 64-48 Class C district title win over Ishpeming.
Jay Lori scored 18 points and grabbed 15 rebounds to pace the Miners (21-1) to their fourth straight district championship.
Ishpeming sophomore Ozzy Corp, right, dribbles around Negaunee senior Zane Radlof on Friday night at Lakeview Memorial Gymnasium in Negaunee during the Class C district championship game. (Journal photo by Adelle Whitefoot)
Miners sophomore Jay Lori shoots a free throw. (Journal photo by Adelle Whitefoot)
Coach Mike O'Donnell's Negaunee club will now face St. Ignace - a 71-40 winner over Indian River Inland Lakes Friday night - at 8 p.m. Monday at Marquette Senior High School in regional semifinal play.
Lori, tied his brother, Eric, for game scoring honors. Jay came through big time when the Miners needed a boost after reigning Class ABC Upper Peninsula Player of the Year Tyler Jandron was forced to the bench with three fouls with 1:13 left in the first quarter.
"When (Tyler) was out, we knew we had to step it up," said Jay Lori, who matched his career high in points. "I was just into the game. We wanted to win."
O'Donnell said Lori was "disappointed with the way he played" in two previous games against the Hematites this season.
"He was determined to be a factor tonight ... and he was a monster inside," the coach said. "He played very good help defense. We had him do some double-teaming (defensively) inside."
That turned out to be a major factor in the Miners' win as the Hematites (16-5) continually drove the lane early to take a 9-1 lead.
"We just had a bad start. We're known for that," Jay Lori said.
Said Ishpeming head coach Jeff Olson: "We came out strong early. But Negaunee is a good team and they outplayed us the rest of the way.
"They made the shots and we didn't. They deserved to win."
Olson said the turning point came when Jandron - who wound up with eight fourth-quarter points - was forced to the bench.
"(Negaunee) got inside a few times after that and we didn't box out," Olson said. "We just didn't rotate on defense."
The Miners rallied from a 9-5 first-quarter deficit to take a 25-22 halftime lead behind seven points by Jay Lori and a pair of triples by Tyler Windahl, who finished with 11 points.
"Those were big 3s," Jay Lori said. "They gave us a spark."
Added O'Donnell: "That halftime lead was huge."
Negaunee opened the third quarter with a triple by Eric Lori and a bucket by Zane Radloff for a 30-22 advantage.
"We felt, then, that Ishpeming had to come out and chase us, so we spread it out," O'Donnell said. "We did a good job running our spread offense (after that)."
Though Ozzy Hakkarinen scored seven points in the third stanza, Ishpeming was unable to stop the Miners' offense. Eric Lori notched eight points in the quarter as the Miners claimed a 44-34 advantage heading into the final eight minutes.
Alex Briones and Ozzy Corp scored six points apiece in the last quarter, but the Hematites couldn't gain any ground on the Miners with the Lori brothers notching six points apiece.
Briones led Ishpeming with 15 points and Corp added 12. But Bobby Zhulkie (eight) and Derek DeCaire (four) combined for just 12 points, with Zhulkie scoring five of his in the opening quarter.
"Our defensive effort was tremendous," O'Donnell said. "(Robert) Loy did an excellent (defensive) job on the perimeter and we switched defenders on DeCaire.
"It was a total team contribution tonight. We were mentally strong and I liked our composure."