EAST LANSING - The season ended for the Negaunee High School boys basketball season in the same place and at the same time as last year - in the Class C semifinals late on a Thursday afternoon at Michigan State University's Breslin Center.
This year, the Miners ended their season at 24-2 when they fell to the No. 2 team in the state, Detroit Consortium, and their No. 1 star, 69-54.
In a game that many thought of as the battle between the best player in the Upper Peninsula, Negaunee's Tyler Jandron, and the best player in the Lower Peninsula, heralded sophomore Josh Jackson, neither player led his team in scoring.
Negaunee’s Jay Lori (23) pulls down a rebound against Detroit Consortium’s Rudy Smith (15) and Malik Dawson in their Class C semifinal game on Thursday at Michigan State University in East Lansing. Miners teammate and Lori’s brother Eric Lori is at far left. (Photo by Al Goldis)
Negaunee’s Tyler Jandron, right, drives agains Consortium’s Joshua Jackson. (Photo by Al Goldis)
Jay Lori scored a team-high 14 points for the Miners, who fell victim to ice-cold shooting from the field. Negaunee hit less than 28 percent of its field goal attempts in the first half while converting just 5 of 21 shots from beyond the 3-point arc overall.
The Cougars' Rudy Smith led all scorers with 22 points as teammate Luster Johnson came off the bench for 20 and Jackson finished with a manageable 18 points.
Negaunee coach Michael O'Donnell said that his team did a good job defending Jackson, but that his supporting cast stepped up.
"Obviously he's an amazing player," O'Donnell said. "We needed to really keep the other guys down, and when you look at Rudy Smith and Luster Johnson, they killed us.
"We needed to keep the other guys under 10 (points), and they got off for 20-plus, and that was a big hurt for us."
Jandron finished with 12 points and Eric Lori added 11 for Negaunee, which hung right with the Cougars for a quarter, trailing just 12-11 after the first eight minutes.
"We couldn't have been happier with the start, being down by one point going into the second quarter," O'Donnell said. "In our half-court defense, I thought we really scrapped and made them work for everything they had."
But Consortium pulled away in the second quarter, when Negaunee managed just two baskets. Extending their lead bit by bit throughout the period, the Cougars then scored the last seven points of the half to take a more commanding 32-18 lead at the break.
Jandron, who had Jackson as his primary defensive responsibility, held the super sophomore to just eight points in the first two quarters. That including nothing on the scoreboard in the first half, though Jandron picked up his third foul 28 seconds before intermission.
"It was very tough," Jandron said. "He's so lanky and he can drive by you. He's a good player, you have to keep in his hip pocket, but it's tough to keep up. I liked the challenge, but it was tough getting that third foul."
Negaunee cut the deficit to 10 points, 39-29, with a back-door layup by Tyler Windahl halfway through the third, but would get no closer.
"Two things we talked about coming in was defensive rebounding and transition points," O'Donnell said. "That killed us in the second quarter. I haven't seen the stats, but that 14-point spread came from offensive rebounds and transition baskets."
So ends the career of Jandron and the rest of a very special Negaunee senior class that won four straight regional titles and played in the state final four in each of their last two seasons.
"I can't say enough about them, they've been tremendous," O'Donnell said. "That's something that's never happened here at Negaunee, and not too many times in the U.P., a team getting to the quarterfinals four years in a row and to the Breslin two years."
Zane Radloff scored eight points and pulled down a game-high 14 rebounds for the Miners.
"It was amazing," Jandron said. "To make it here twice has been unbelievable, but it's tough losing. I want to push myself, but tonight we came up short."
O'Donnell said that the value of that senior class to his program was not confined to the basketball court.
"Not only good basketball players but good people, good students, people in the community look up to them," the coach said. "In four years, I don't think we've ever had one incident where these guys' names come up in a negative situation."