PETOSKEY - Now, they'll continue to head south down the road.
They clearly know the way.
For a second straight season, the Negaunee Miners boys' basketball team will make the trek to the Jack Breslin Student Events Center on the campus of Michigan State University following a convincing 63-42 victory over East Jordan on Tuesday in an MHSAA Class C state quarterfinal at the Petoskey High School gym.
Negaunee players including, from left, senior Tyler Jandron, sophomore Jay Lori and senior Zane Radloff celebrate in the closing seconds of Tuesday’s MHSAA Class C state quarterfinal game against East Jordan at the Petoskey High School gym. The Miners defeated the Red Devils, 63-42, to advance to a second-straight Class C state semifinal game. Negaunee (24-1) will face Detroit Consortium (23-2) at 2:50 p.m. Thursday at the Breslin Center in East Lansing. (Petoskey News-Review photo by Steve Foley)
The Miners, 24-1, will face Detroit Consortium, 23-2, in a MHSAA Class C state semifinal at 2:50 p.m. Thursday at the Breslin Center.
The Miners, who on Tuesday were making a fourth-consecutive Class C state quarterfinal appearance, took command right from the tip against an East Jordan team that was making the program's first quarterfinal appearance in more than 60 years.
Senior guard Tyler Jandron led the way for the Miners as he finished with a game-high 21 points and six rebounds. Senior Eric Lori added 17 points and seven rebounds, senior Zane Radloff had 11 points and sophomore Jay Lori totaled nine points and a team-high eight rebounds as the Miners again punched their ticket to Breslin.
Semifinals, finals tickets on sale:
Token tickets for the state semifinals Thursday and finals Saturday will be available at the Negaunee High School principal's office from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. today and Thursday. Semifinals tickets cost $8 and finals tickets are $10. Token tickets can be exchanged for actual game tickets in East Lansing prior to the start of each game. If Negaunee loses in the semis, tokens for the final will be refunded for the purchase price on Monday morning at the NHS principal's office. Refunds will only be given for finals tokens.
"It feels amazing," Negaunee coach Mike O'Donnell said. "We've been here before and we were hoping we could draw off our experience with our guys. East Jordan was a little younger one through five, so we were hoping being here before and having guys who've played in this gym before would help us.
"We wanted to draw off that and I think that showed in the second half."
It also showed from the start in front of a jam-packed, standing room only crowd at the 3,000-plus capacity Petoskey High School gym - the vast majority of which were there in support of East Jordan (located less than 30 miles away) - as the Miners scored the first eight points of the game.
"We got a little rattled," East Jordan coach Darrin Weber said. "Donny Cutler got in early foul trouble and we're a different team when he's not on the floor in terms of speed. We played hard, but that's a good (Negaunee) team. That's all I could say on the bench.
"I kept saying that to my coaches, that's a good team."
East Jordan missed their first five shots from the floor and shot just 3-of-13 in the first quarter as Negaunee - behind the steady play of their experienced backcourt in Eric Lori and Jandron - led 14-8 after the first quarter.
The Miner lead expanded to 29-19 behind a Robert Loy 3-pointer before a Jay Lori offensive putback just before the halftime horn pushed Negaunee in front by 11 points, 31-20, at the break.
Eric Lori had 12 of his 17 points in the first half, while Jandron - who drew the assignment of guarding East Jordan's speedster Noah Bacchus - had 11 of his 21 points in the first half and limited Bacchus to just eight first half points.
"We had an 11 point lead at halftime and we talked about after four or five minutes in the second half, was it going to be a four or five point game or a 15 point game," O'Donnell said. "I thought we did a good job defensively in the third quarter of taking care of the things we needed to take care of."
After East Jordan's Jordan Weber - one of five sophomores on the Red Devils roster - knocked down a 3-pointer from the wing to open the third, the Miners' defensive pressure took over as they held their opponent to just four points in the stanza, pushing their advantage to 43-24 entering the fourth.
Radloff, who used his 6-foot-5 frame to his advantage, had five of his 11 points in the third quarter, while Eric Lori connected on his third 3-pointer to put the Miners comfortably in the driver's seat with just eight minutes to play.
"We got back to the fundamentals defensively," O'Donnell said. "We communicated on screens, switched when we needed to, started boxing out and we got to loose balls."
The Miners kept their foot on the accelerator in the fourth quarter and used a 12-0 run to take their biggest lead, 59-29, with just over three minutes to play. Jandron capped the run behind back-to-back dribble drives which resulted in 3-point plays.
Jandron finished with eight points in the fourth quarter, but more importantly limited Bacchus - who scored 27 points against Beaverton in a regional final including a game-winning basket at the end of overtime - to just three second half points.
Bacchus finished with 11 points, while Weber had 17 points to pace East Jordan, (19-5).
The Miners shot 23-of-46 (50 percent) from the floor and finished with 34 rebounds while forcing East Jordan into 15 turnovers and just five total assists.
"We saw Noah (Bacchus) on film and he was the quickest player we've seen all season," O'Donnell said. "We were concerned about him getting to the hole on us and creating fouls. Tyler (Jandron) did a phenomenal job on him staying in front of him and not fouling and making him work."
Jandron, who has been a member of all four of Negaunee's quarterfinalist teams, said experience played a factor on Tuesday.
"I'm just really proud of our team," Jandron said. "We've been here four times in a row and I think we were comfortable and East Jordan wasn't. They haven't been here and it's hard the first time. I remember my freshman year being here and for the first time it's tough."
Jandron said taking advantage inside, where the Miners had a size advantage, also was key.
"Jay (Lori) and Zane (Radloff) both did a great job of crashing the boards," Jandron said. "Once we saw we had an advantage down there we just wanted to continue to pound it down in there. We knew they were quick, but we tried to take them out of their game plan and we did that by countering their pressure."