Making huge stops

Marquette boys use tight defense to top Westwood

MARQUETTE — Despite several postponements and cancellations across the frigid Upper Peninsula on Tuesday night, one intra-county game still went on as scheduled.

That game featured the Marquette boys basketball team topping Westwood 47-39 at the MSHS Barb Crill Gymnasium.

The Redmen, ranked No. 2 in this week’s Upper Peninsula Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association poll, are now 10-3 on the season after a strong defensive performance, which limited the Patriots to 35.2 percent from the field.

MSHS head coach Brad Nelson said despite his team’s defensive effort, the offense was lacking going into halftime, missing a string of baskets off of turnovers and shooting just 6 of 16 from the free throw line for the game.

“Going into halftime, I told the guys we were only up by two,” he said. “We left a lot of points out on the floor. I think I counted five straight stops that we got defensively and we came up empty on the other end.

“I thought we did a good job attacking the rim and earning fouls, but we’ve just got to make those free throws. Partially that was just us being up by two. We’ve got to make those layups.

“We’ve played at a pace faster than we have all year what we’ve been trying to do, but we just have to get better at converting stops into buckets. That’s the bottom line.”

Redmen senior center Marius Grazulis agreed with his head coach about finishing plays at the rim.

“It feels good to get out of here with a win,” he said. “We played pretty good defense the whole game, it’s just that we need to do a better job on the offensive end. We ran pretty good, we just need to finish those layups. We’ve got a tough stretch coming up with four conference games in a row so we’re just going to prepare for that.”

Westwood head coach Chad Hewitt said the game came down to a simple late-game situation where the Redmen prevailed, crediting his players for a strong effort against a strong opponent.

“It’s not that anything went wrong, Marquette is a good team and they’re coached well,” he said. “They’re quick and athletic. With under a minute to go in a four-point game, we had a layup and missed it, and we go down the other end and were a hair away from a steal and that’s the difference in the game right there.

“I thought our kids came out with a lot of energy tonight and never rolled over and died. They got after it and I couldn’t be more proud. We’ve been off for two weeks with a cancellation last week, so it was a good game and a good test for us to get after somebody. Marquette is the No. 2 team in the U.P. for a reason. They give people fits.”

It was the Patriots (8-4) getting the early jump out of the gates. After the Redmen received the opening bucket from Grazulis, Westwood quickly went on a 9-0 run with two baskets from senior guard Nathan Beckman, one from junior forward Taylor Dellangelo and a layup from senior forward Jacob Adriano.

MSHS climbed back into things and tied the game at 9-9 on a triple from junior forward John Thomson. Thomson followed that up with a layup and was fouled in the process, sinking the free throw for the three-point play.

Beckman sunk his second triple of the night to tie the game 12-12 at the end of the first quarter.

The Redmen pulled ahead 22-14 in the second quarter while two corner threes from senior forward Blake Hewitt at the end of the frame made it a 22-20 game at halftime.

The Marquette defense was the story of the third, limiting the Patriots to just one field goal, which came with 10 seconds left in the quarter on a jumper from junior guard Ty Alderton. Westwood hit seven free throws in the quarter as well, and Marquette held a 38-29 lead after three.

The Patriots climbed back in the fourth and made it a four-point game with roughly two minutes to play. Forced into committing fouls, MSHS senior guard Bryce Brazeau was sent to the line with 1:04 left for the one-and-one attempt. Brazeau missed the first, but the ball was rebounded by Grazulis, who completed the putback to put the Redmen up 45-39.

With 29 seconds left, senior guard Raffy Millado went to the line for another one-and-one. Millado missed the first and Grazulis picked up the rebound once again to all but seal the game.

Grazulis led all scorers with 13 points and collected nine of Marquette’s 22 rebounds. Millado and Thomson each added eight, while junior forward Luke Ogea had seven.

Dellangelo and Beckman had 10 points each for Westwood, while Hewitt added eight.

Marquette was 19 of 40 shooting, while Westwood was 12 of 34 and 11 of 12 from the charity stripe. The Patriots grabbed 22 rebounds with Alderton getting nine.

The Redmen travel to Menominee (2-10) on Friday, while Westwood visits Manistique (3-9).

Email Ryan Spitza at sports@miningjournal.net.