Too close for comfort

MARQUETTE – It appeared early in Thursday night’s high school basketball game that Negaunee was going to blow past Marquette easily, but that didn’t turn out to be the case.

The Redmen made a nice comeback in the second half to turn the game into a close contest, but the Miners withstood the rally and remained undefeated with a 49-39 victory.

Dre Tuominen led Negaunee (17-0) with 16 points, while Jay Lori added 15 points and 14 rebounds as the Miners have been the No. 1 Class A-B-C team in the Upper Peninsula all season and just this week took over as the sole No. 1 team in the state in Class C.

“It was a typical rivalry game,” NHS head coach Dan Waterman said. “We had a nice lead, but we didn’t play hard enough at the start of the second half. We allowed them to get some confidence back.

“They didn’t quit and scrapped their way back into it and we got a little tight in the fourth quarter. They got it down to three, but I liked how our kids responded.

“They did a good job of taking care of the ball and we stepped up and made some clutch free throws.”

Marquette (6-7) made things interesting late in the game as the Redmen pulled within three points of the Miners at the midpoint of the fourth quarter.

But Negaunee started sinking its free throws down the stretch and a layup from Lori with a minute left sealed the Miners’ victory.

“It was too little, too late,” Redmen head coach Brad Nelson said. “You can’t give yourself a 13-point deficit against a team like Negaunee.

“We talked about it at halftime that it was going to be a battle and we’d have to scratch our way back into it one possession at a time. We were down by one possession with the ball and if we had tied it, that changes the whole dynamic of the game.

“We dug too big of a hole, we didn’t shoot well at all and we’re a pretty good shooting team. Tonight, for some reason, they just didn’t fall.

“They’re No. 1 in the state and we were within one possession of them in the fourth quarter. It’s not ideal that we lost, but we had our chances.”

Luke Pap led Marquette with 12 points, while Alex DuVall had 10.

The game was close during the opening minutes before Negaunee went up 9-4. A coast-to-coast basket from Tuominen helped give the Miners a 13-6 lead at the end of the first period.

The Miners poured it on in the second quarter with an 11-0 run, highlighted by a trey from Dylan Tasson and two buckets from Lori, to take a 24-8 advantage. Negaunee then went into the intermission with a 27-14 lead.

“We had to get the ball inside,” Waterman said. “That was our goal. We thought we had an advantage at those spots and Jay was outstanding all game. When you have 15 points and 14 rebounds, that’s a man-sized game. You could see that he wanted it tonight.”

Marquette started its comeback in the third quarter as the Redmen trimmed the deficit to 10 by the end of the period.

In the fourth, a steal and layup from Jesse Elsenbroek brought Redmen fans to their feet, and a bucket from Pap pulled Marquette within three points of the Miners. However, that’s the closest the Redmen would get as Negaunee emerged unscathed.

When asked how he felt about where his team was at, Waterman said that he was happy.

“Our game against Gladstone on Tuesday was our best game of the year,” he said. “We put a good game together offensively and defensively. We made our free throws, all of that.

“Tonight, that was a tournament atmosphere. We’ve been in situations like that and to see our guys answer the bell was great.

“We didn’t play well to get ourselves into that situation, but we got ourselves out of it by doing the right things. I’m very happy right now.”

Marquette plays at Gladstone Tuesday, while Negaunee heads to Westwood on Wednesday.

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246.