Iron Mountain outlasts Negaunee boys basketball team in tourney-like atmosphere

Negaunee's Jason Waterman, left, shoots during a game played at Iron Mountain Tuesday night. (Iron Mountain Daily News photo by Adam Niemi)

IRON MOUNTAIN — Despite two starters fouling out late, Iron Mountain held on for a 66-62 Mid-Peninsula Conference boys basketball win against Negaunee on Tuesday.

The Mountaineers (10-1, 5-1 M-PC) lost Charlie Gerhard with three minutes left in the third quarter and Jaden Vicenzi a couple minutes into the fourth. Iron Mountain coach Bucky Johnson said the losses dramatically changed the team’s matchups and capabilities on the floor.

“It changed the game plan because they’re pretty important offensively,” Johnson said. “We did a couple different things but with the alignment of our guys and where they were playing, and then we wanted to have the ball in the hands of our playmakers.

“Carson (Wonders) had six points in the fourth quarter. Marcus (Johnson) had eight. That was kind of where we had to go with the ball because we weren’t as smooth with the ball offensively.”

A full gym was vibrant with a tournament-style electricity. With both teams being traditional rivals often playing for high stakes, the crowd seemed to know one thing: Tuesday’s game might mean something at the end of the season, depending how things settle come tournament time.

IM held a slim three-point lead late in the fourth quarter. Intentional fouls put the likes of Johnson and Wonders at the free throw line.

With about 30 seconds left in the game, Dre Tuominen hit a near-halfcourt 3-pointer to bring Negaunee (7-3) back within three points and fouled for a final shot at tying the game, but Tucker hit a free throw to give Iron Mountain breathing room with a four-point lead and eventually the win.

The Mountaineers made 11 of 18 free throws in the fourth quarter. They were 19 of 29 for the game. Negaunee made 13 of 22 on free throws for the game.

Carson Wonders led the Mountaineers with 19 points. Vicenzi scored 18 points and Marcus Johnson scored 17.

Tuominen led Negaunee with a game-high 25 points. Trent Bell added 13, Darius Provost chipped in nine and Jacob Ennett eight.

The loss was a missed opportunity, but the tournament-type atmosphere will be indispensible as the end of the season nears, according to NHS coach Dan Waterman.

“We’ll be fine. We need games like this,” he said. “It stings because we lost but playing in this game is infinitely better than going out and winning by 40.

“You need a tournament-type atmosphere so that your team is ready when March rolls around. It’s good for our young guys, our inexperienced guys. We’re really, really close to being really, really good. A couple of things here or there that could’ve tipped the outcome of this game.”

While Negaunee’s Bell and Tuominen stepped up, the role players found a way to give Iron Mountain fits.

“It was a battle. We rolled the dice a little bit defensively because they have two outstanding players and other kids stepped up,” Johnson said, noting how Provost and Ennett hit timely shots.

Iron Mountain plays at Westwood on Thursday.

The Negaunee JVs won, 43-40.