Free throws lift Rapid River Rockets past Munising in Class D boys basketball district tournament at Mustangs’ gym

MUNISING — The Rapid River boys have struggled from the free throw line for much of this basketball season.

But it was the charity stripe that saved the Rockets in a 49-43 triumph over Munising in a Class D district tournament semifinal game played at the Mustangs’ gym on Wednesday.

The Rockets (18-3) return to Munising High School to face Mid Peninsula (4-17) in Friday’s championship game at 7 p.m. Munising finishes at 18-4.

Mid Pen advanced with a 55-44 win over Big Bay de Noc.

The Rockets preserved their third win over the Mustangs this season by sinking 7 of 8 free throws in the final 76 seconds.

“We were in the gym working on free throws last weekend,” said Rapid River sophomore Tyler Sundling, who drained 3 of 4 in the final 13.1 seconds.

Munising climbed within 42-41 with 1:43 left when sophomore Josh Huotari split a pair of free throws.

Sundling then sank a pair to put the Rockets up 44-41 some 27 seconds later.

A lay-in by junior Jesse Matson brought the Mustangs within 46-43 with 14 seconds left.

The Rockets, however, didn’t allow Munising to get any closer.

Rapid River moved its lead into double digits at 33-20 following a 20-foot jump shot senior guard Lucas Sundling with 3:50 left in the third quarter.

Munising then finished the third on an 11-2 run, shaving its deficit to 35-31 on a jumper from top of the key by Huotari.

Senior Alec Blank opened the fourth with a 6-foot jumper and suddenly the Mustangs were within two points at 35-33.

The Rockets responded with five straight points, gaining a 40-33 advantage on a free throw with 6:51 remaining and setting the stage for the frantic finish.

“Cameron and Tyler really came through for us from the line,” RR coach Rich Poma said. “I thought Munising played extremely well in the second half. They were patient and made us grind down on defense. It’s hard to beat a team three times. To get three wins against that team is fantastic.”

Lucas Sundling led the Rockets with 14 points. Senior center Logan Hardwick added 12 points. nine rebounds and a blocked shot. Tyler Sundling finished with seven points, three assists and two blocks.

Blank and senior backcourt mate Cade Contreras scored 13 points apiece for the Mustangs, who hit 16 of 49 field goals and committed eight turnovers. Rapid River was 15 of 38 from the floor and had 12 miscues.