Miners still golden

ISHPEMING – The first time Negaunee and Ishpeming tangled, the Miners won fairly easily.

It was a much closer game on Friday night, but Negaunee again ended up on top as they beat the Hematites 53-47. Dre Tuominen and Jay Lori had 20 points apiece for the Miners, while Ozzy Corp led Ishpeming with 15.

“It was close, but everybody knew it would be,” Negaunee head coach Dan Waterman said. “It was a classic battle between two really good teams that play good defense.

“The first time we played them, I knew that that wasn’t the real them. This is more what I was expecting to get out of them.

“We made a couple more plays at the end than they did, but we’re going to be seeing them again in March (at the Class C district tournament in Westwood) and that’s the one that everyone is going to remember.”

Ishpeming head coach Jeff Olson was happy that his team played better this time around, but said that his Hematites didn’t execute down the stretch.

“I’ve said it before, they’re a good team,” he said. “The good news is that we improved from the last time we played them. We had our chances at the end.

“We just didn’t execute, but the good news is that we’ll get to play them again. We’ll have more time to get a little bit better.”

Olson said earlier in the week that he was hoping his players’ “legs” are getting underneath them and he says that they’ve made progress.

“This game showed that maybe we’re getting there,” he said. “I think we played with a little more intensity and a little more adrenaline than we had been playing because it’s our third game this week. That’s the good news and we just need to keep getting better.”

Down by nine points in the fourth quarter, Ishpeming (9-4) rallied to pull within two after two free throws by Corp. However, later in the period, Lori got a nice pass from Tuominen and put in layup to put the Miners up 50-45. Two free throws by Trent Bell sealed the win for Negaunee (15-0).

The two teams got off to a slow start as both struggled with turnovers, but back-to-back layups by Lori gave the Miners a 14-8 lead after the first quarter.

“Jay was good tonight,” Waterman said. “He’s giving up five inches with Ozzy guarding him and Ozzy’s an outstanding defender. Jay uses his body really well and he puts a lot of time in. It’s nice to see him come out and have a game like that in this atmosphere.”

The story of the second quarter was missed opportunities by the Hematites. Ishpeming missed two easy baskets down low that would’ve tied the game and possibly given it the lead. As a result, Negaunee took a 20-17 advantage into the break.

In the second half, Negaunee started to pull away. A jumper by Ishpeming’s Thomas Finegan cut Negaunee’s lead to two, but a three-point play from Lori and a bucket by Bell put Negaunee back up by seven. The rest of the period involved Tuominen shooting from the free throw line as Negaunee’s last six points came from him at the charity stripe.

“Dre was special tonight,” Waterman said. “We were having trouble because they play good defense, but Dre was able to break them down off the dribble a little bit, get in there and create some of his own offense.

“He controlled the game for us tonight – 13 of 14 at the free throw line. That’s what you like to see from your point guard.”

In the fourth quarter, Ishpeming started its rally. A three-point play from Finegan cut the deficit to seven, and later the Hematites went on a 6-0 run to pull within 46-43. However, Ishpeming just couldn’t get the tying basket.

On Tuesday, Negaunee hosts Gladstone and Ishpeming entertains Marquette.

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal. net.