Step up the pressure: Negaunee boys come back in 2nd half to topple Ishpeming

Ishpeming’s Gavin Argall, left, looks for teammate Jacob Kugler, right, as Negaunee’s Jason Waterman blocks their path during a high school boys basketball game played at the Hematites’ gym on Wednesday. (Journal photo by Corey Kelly)

“I just told them we needed to play harder.” — Dan Waterman, Negaunee boys basketball coach, on what he wanted his players to do in the second half

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ISHPEMING — Coaches may challenge their players in the locker room when things aren’t going well.

That’s what Negaunee head coach Dan Waterman did with his team on Wednesday night.

The Miners trailed Ishpeming 21-14 at halftime and Waterman told his team that they needed to play harder. Negaunee clearly listened to Waterman as they made a nice second-half comeback, taking the lead in the third quarter and holding on for a 47-43 win over the Hematites.

Jason Waterman led the Miners with 15 points, while Ishpeming’s Gavin Sundberg paced all scorers with 22.

“I thought the last four minutes of the first half that we played pretty well,” Coach Waterman said. “I thought we executed great out of the gate, we just couldn’t get anything to go down.

“And then there was just that lull. We weren’t playing hard, we weren’t pushing tempo. I just told them we needed to play harder. There was no magical x’s-and-o’s strategy. When we started playing harder, shots started going in and we started making things happen.”

Ishpeming jumped out quickly, building it lead into double digits at the end of the first quarter at 15-4 when Sundberg drilled a long 3-pointer that beat the buzzer.

The Hematites increased it more to 19-6 in the second with a layup by Gavin Argall on a feed from Hunter Smith. About that time, Negaunee started to build some momentum before halftime, getting buckets from Drew DuShane and Jakson Sager to help cut its deficit to seven points at the break.

In the third, Negaunee applied more pressure on the Hematites. The Miners held Ishpeming to just six points in the quarter and eventually took the lead at 27-26 on a jumper by Waterman. Heading into the fourth, Negaunee held a 31-27 advantage.

“We made some really good defensive stops and created some turnovers early, but I don’t think we took care of the ball like we normally do against the pressure,” Ishpeming head coach Anthony Katona said. “We haven’t had many types of games like this early in the season. It’s nothing to hang our heads on. We didn’t hit shots that we normally do, but I’m sure the next game we’ll start making them.

“We’ve just got to keep getting better as the season goes. We’ve got to keep pushing each other. We’ve got to keep prepping on what we want to do for the end of the season, offensively and defensively.

“I’m seeing it a lot in spurts. We’ve just got to complete a whole game. We’ve done it a few times this year. We’ve just got to do it more often.”

The Miners opened the fourth quarter with a trey by Waterman and got back-to-back jumpers from Drew Lindberg to build up a 39-30 lead. Ishpeming cut Negaunee’s advantage to six late in the game on layups by Matt Trawick and Sundberg, and with 16 seconds left, the Hematites trimmed it down to five thanks to a Sundberg jumper.

However, Waterman knocked down two free throws shortly after that to make it a three-possession game and clinch the win for the Miners.

“I’m proud of the way we responded the last 2 1/2 quarters,” Coach Waterman said. “I thought we played with some composure, but we kind of came a little unnerved in the final three minutes. I talked to Jason, Jakson and Drew and said you’re the three guys that we want to get the ball to. You’re all 85-plus percent free throw shooters and you’ve just got to just step up and make them.

“I don’t know if the kids feel it, but we’re getting better every time we step in the gym right now. As long as we play hard, we’re going to be really good. We improve on something every day in the gym and that’s a credit to them and how hard they work in practice. They’ve been outstanding day to day in practice.”

Ishpeming hosts Westwood Friday, while Negaunee plays Hancock on Monday.

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.