Second wind helps: Negaunee boys basketball team overcomes slow start to pull away from Houghton, 61-48

Negaunee’s Jakson Sager, right, prepares to work past Houghton’s Jack Ashburn, center, with help from fellow Miner Alex Munson during their high school basketball game on Thursday at Lakeview Memorial Gymnasium in Negaunee. (Journal photo by Trinity Carey)

“It took us five or six minutes to settle in and figure out where the cracks and creases in the zone were.” — Dan Waterman, Negaunee boys basketball coach, on Houghton’s defense

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NEGAUNEE — After a slow start out of the gates, the Negaunee High School boys varsity basketball team picked up the pace in a big way.

The Miners scored a measly six points in the first quarter, finding themselves down 9-6 before regrouping with a 21-point second period to help swing the momentum and earn a 61-48 victory over Houghton at Lakeview Memorial Gym on Thursday night.

The win puts the Miners at the .500 mark for the first time this season at 4-4.

NHS head coach Dan Waterman said his team was slowed in the first quarter by the Gremlins’ zone defense before finally being able to solve the riddle and starting to get baskets to fall.

“It was kind of a feeling-out process,” he said. “For three days, we knew we were going to see that zone and they played it just a little bit different than we anticipated, so it took us five or six minutes to settle in and figure out where the cracks and creases in that zone were.

“We started pressing, too, and I think that sped us up and got us playing a little faster. Shots started to go and the confidence started to build.

“It was a little nerve-wracking at the beginning because we had two points for most of the first quarter. That’s a credit to Houghton, they used their length on defense, but I thought for the last three quarters our kids really did a nice job executing our zone stuff and getting the ball inside against the zone. I’m really happy with that.”

Waterman also credited his balanced scoring attack, led by junior guards Jason Waterman, Drew Lindberg and Jakson Sager, who combined for 51 Negaunee’s points.

“We need those three kids to score for us and Drew (DuShane) chipped in a couple of buckets along with Jake (Larson),” Dan Waterman said. “I thought it was a pretty balanced effort.

“Drew Lindberg had a heck of a game. He had 13 points, which is a good output. He also made (Houghton senior guard) George Butvilas really work to get points on defense. He’s a good offensive player and I thought Drew did a great job making him work hard and not giving him any clean looks.”

Houghton head coach Jared Lawson said despite jumping out to an early lead, one of his top players in junior forward Bradley Sirard got into early foul trouble, forcing him to sit Sirard more than he wanted to.

“The dynamic changed when Brad got his third foul in the first quarter,” Lawson said. “You lose one of your best players and it changes the dynamic. Up to that point it was 7-2, we were doing everything we wanted to do, and all of a sudden we had to shift guys into defensive positions that they’re not used to and Negaunee took advantage of that.

“They were getting guys in position to score and we just didn’t respond.”

The Miners took their first lead on consecutive 2-point baskets from Waterman to begin the second quarter, putting Negaunee up 10-9.

Houghton took the lead back and made it 13-12 on a pair of free throws from Butvilas before Lindberg sunk a pair at the other end to make it 14-13.

Right after that, the Miners saw consecutive triples fall, the first from Waterman and the next from Sager, to quickly make it 20-13. Negaunee built that lead up to 27-14 before holding a 27-17 advantage at halftime.

After a layup by Waterman to begin the third, the Gremlins used a nine-point run with two baskets apiece from Butvilas and Sirard to pull within three, 29-26.

The Gremlins kept the deficit at three at 31-28, but that’s as close as they came to the Miners, who used a 19-point third and 15-point fourth to pull away.

Waterman led all scorers with 25 points, while Lindberg and Sager found double digits with 13 each. Larson chipped in with six while DuShane had four.

Sirard scored 19 for the Gremlins while Butvilas had 18. Senior forward Wes Hyslop added seven while senior forward Sam Keskimaki added four.

Negaunee shot 23 of 46 from the field and 8 of 17 from the line, also grabbing 30 rebounds with Waterman collecting 10.

Houghton shot 18 of 45 from the field and 6 of 9 from the line, grabbing 19 rebounds with Hyslop getting five.

The Miners also won the JV game 53-20.

Houghton hosts L’Anse (4-4) on Monday while Negaunee visits Ishpeming (2-3) on Wednesday.

Email Ryan Spitza at sports@miningjournal.net.