GARDEN CORNERS - The Upper Peninsula Class D No. 3-ranked Munising Mustangs have a lot of options and they were on full display Friday night in a 55-38 win over Big Bay de Noc for the District 125 championship.
"We did a great job in the first half stopping (Ben) Stasewich in the middle and we stopped (Colin) Immel from the baseline. Then they just had that third guy who comes," BBdN head coach Angie LaLonde said. "Our shots didn't fall for us and there's did."
"You stop their first and second option, and the third one gets you."
Munising’s Ben Stasewich (34) goes up for a shot as Big Bay de Noc’s Loren Swayer, right, and Cole Potvin, left, defend during the first quarter of Friday’s Class D district championship game at Big Bay’s gym. (Escanaba Daily Press photo by Jon Young)
Munising will now play North Central (20-3) Monday night in Escanaba in regional tournament play.
Both teams struggled to make shots early, but the Mustangs closed off the first quarter on a 7-0 run, capped off by Austin Kelto's pull-up jumper at the buzzer.
Munising (19-3) led 11-2 after the first, with four different players recording buckets.
"I thought by the end of the first quarter, we had kind of settled in and I was just happy with the way we were playing," Munising head coach Dan Waterman said.
"We were getting good looks at the bucket and I knew they would start going eventually."
The shots kept falling for the Mustangs as they found Stasewich inside to begin the second quarter, followed by a bucket from Alex Hill that gave them a 15-2 lead.
BBdN senior Cole Potvin ended the scoring drought, which lasted nearly nine minutes, by draining a 3-pointer with 5:30 left.
Zachary Pomeroy followed that up with another 3-pointer as the Black Bears (13-9) cut the Munising lead to 15-8.
Kelto responded for Munising by draining a 3-pointer, but BBdN continued its hot shooting as Bryce Thompson connected from deep on its next possession.
But Kelto answered with another bucket before Potvin hit another 3-pointer, cutting Munising's lead to 20-14 with 2:25 left. But that was as close as BBdN would get.
Kelto hit again from the lane and the Mustangs scored the final four points, taking a 26-16 advantage into halftime.
Waterman had high praise for his junior point guard, who also had the task of guarding Big Bay's leading scorer Potvin.
"He (Kelto) controlled the tempo of the game, he did a nice job just staying in front of Potvin and making him work and he really stepped up," Waterman said.
"He picked his spots well and hit some big shots to get us out early in the game."
The Mustangs were able to slow the game down in the third quarter and pick their spots against Big Bay's 2-3 zone defense.
Munising junior Garrett Blank scored six points in the quarter as his team pulled ahead 43-22.
"That's where the hole in that defense is," Waterman said. "If you can get the ball into the high post, you can break it down and Garrett did a good job.
"When he was open, he turned and shot it. When they collapsed on him, he kicked it to a shooter and Noah (Ackerman) made a big 3 for us on the wing."
The Black Bears continued to fight in the fourth quarter but struggled to make free throws, as Munising's lead hovered around 20 points.
BBdN had difficulty getting into the lane, as Munising sagged its help defense to slow Potvin's penetration.
BBdN's second leading scorer Tyler DeMars also struggled to get into a rhythm after picking up two fouls in the first two minutes of the game.
Potvin, who left school early with the flu, played almost the entire game, leading Big Bay with 20 points.
Stasewich led Munising with 15 points and 14 rebounds. Immel chipped in 11 points and Kelto added 10.