Negaunee Miners boys basketball team rebounds after slow start at Calumet to post 79-44 win

CALUMET — Led by Michigan Tech commit Trent Bell’s inside presence, along with a plethora of playmakers on the perimeter, the Negaunee Miners displayed why they’re one of the more talented teams in the Upper Peninsula.

It just took them eight minutes to show it.

Negaunee overcame Calumet’s 16-13 first-quarter lead to earn a convincing 79-44 nonconference win over the Calumet Copper Kings on Tuesday night in Calumet.

The Miners (9-3) converted on 17 of 27 shots in the second and third quarters en route to outscoring Calumet 48-19 in that span.

“I would say they’re right at the top of the teams we played,” Calumet head coach Mike Ojala said. “With what they do and depth-wise, they’re certainly good. They have a legit D-2 big (in Bell) playing inside.”

In addition to Negaunee’s efficient shooting, the most telling stat of the Miners comeback came in the turnover department. After turning the ball over on their first three possessions, Negaunee closed the game with just three more turnovers all night.

“It kind of reflected the way we practiced. We had a hard time getting started in practice, but as time went on, we started to get better,” Negaunee head coach Dan Waterman said. “It just took us a little time to get going.”

The Calumet crowd got a good look as to why Michigan Tech recruited the 6-foot-7 Bell. Despite facing Calumet’s sizeable frontline of senior Lenny Torola, junior Cooper Twardzik and senior Jesse Helminen, Bell scored with ease, registering 24 points on 11 of 13 shooting to go along with 14 rebounds.

“His versatility and his skill set is something that I’ve never had the opportunity to coach before,” Waterman said of Bell. “He can step out and stick 3s, take guys off the dribble and he can obviously post up and has a mid-range game. He’s a tough matchup.

“If you got a guy big enough to guard him on the block, chances are he’s not quick enough outside.”

The Miners’ Dre Tuominen scored 12 points and had six assists. Freshman Jason Waterman scored 16, and junior Jacob Ennett tallied 15 points for Negaunee.

With Negaunee stumbling at the start, Calumet (9-4) took advantage thanks to the hot start from senior Wyatt Loukus, who scored 22 points including six 3s.

Loukus’ third 3 gave Calumet an 11-4 lead with 3:54 remaining in the first.

Negaunee employed a mixture of full-court pressures, ranging from straight man, to man-to-man with trapping elements and a zone trap. After the first quarter, where Calumet shot 6 of 12 — including 4 of 8 from 3 — the Copper Kings went just 7 of 26 over the next two quarters.

“We were focused on Matt Ojala, and I thought we did a good job on him and harassing him and making it difficult for him,” Waterman said. “We knew about Loukus and how he can shoot, so we needed to close out a little tighter.”