Shaking off the rust: After 2-week hiatus, Ishpeming boys basketball team jumps out quickly on Hancock for 76-48 win
“We gave them a little break but I’m proud of my guys and how they came out here ready to play.” — Anthony Katona, head coach, Ishpeming boys basketball
ISHPEMING — After going 15 days without a game, some teams might worry about having a bit of rust going into their next game.
That wasn’t the case for the Ishpeming boys varsity basketball team on Wednesday night, scoring early and often in the first quarter to cruise to a 76-48 victory over Hancock at the IHS gym.
The Hematites improved to 2-3 behind 19-point nights from senior forward Darius Yohe and junior forward Gavin Argall.
Ishpeming head coach Anthony Katona said he preached energy and intensity to his team before the game, making sure they wouldn’t start slow out of the gate.
“I told the guys it starts with intensity right from the get-go and they definitely brought it,” he said. “We pushed the ball really well, we didn’t really turn the ball over in the first half, it’s always good to get a little cushion with the lead in the first quarter.”
Katona added that he’s satisfied with the way his players shook the holiday rust off so quickly.
“You’re always wondering how the team is going to react with having over two weeks off,” he said. “We kept it competitive over Christmas break and kept their legs underneath them. We gave them a little break but I’m proud of my guys and how they came out here ready to play.”
For Hancock head coach Matt Strong, it was the exact opposite of ready to play for his Bulldogs, who dropped to 1-8 and found themselves in an 18-point hole after one quarter.
“We weren’t ready to play defensively,” he said. “We were getting beat on simple stuff. Hats off to them (Ishpeming), they played well but we were getting beat on simple stuff. Down screens and lobs over the top and not boxing out. That’s as simple as it gets.
“At some point we’ve got to make a decision on whether we want to start playing the right way or the wrong way.”
The Hematites wasted no time, winning the opening tip and moving down the floor where Argall hit a jumper to put Ishpeming on the board.
After a defensive stop, junior forward Jacob Kugler hit a triple from the top of the arc to quickly make it 5-0 Hematites.
The most notable play of the first quarter came from Yohe. On a Bulldogs shot attempt, Yohe blocked the shot, stole the ball and took it down to the other end for a breakaway dunk. That play made the score 16-5.
Ishpeming continued to roll, limiting the Bulldogs to a half-dozen points for a 24-6 lead after eight minutes.
Hancock picked things up in the second, outscoring the Hematites 16-15. The Bulldogs started off the quarter with a 3-pointer from senior Peyton Anderson. A short time later, the Bulldogs made consecutive baskets, the first a layup from Anderson and the second a jumper from sophomore Carsen Chynoweth to pull within 26-13.
The Bulldogs couldn’t cut into the lead more than that, and Ishpeming built that lead back to 17 points by halftime at 39-22.
Hancock’s biggest quarter was a 19-point third, 12 of those coming from senior Joe Watson.
Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, Ishpeming matched that total to keep its lead at 17 points after three.
The Hematites stood tall once again in the fourth, outscoring Hancock 18-7 to pull away.
Kugler added 14 points while Hematites senior guard Gavin Sundberg finished with 13.
Hancock was led by Watson with 15 while Anderson added 12.
Ishpeming shot 31 of 59 from the field — better than 50 percent — while Hancock was 18 of 51. The Hematites also went 9 of 12 at the free throw line with the Bulldogs going 5 of 11.
Ishpeming collected 41 rebounds with Yohe grabbing 11 while Hancock had 19 with Watson getting four.
After losing its first three games by a combined six points, the Hematites could easily be 5-0.
That doesn’t bother Katona, though, and he believes his players are improving every day as the season continues into the new year.
“We’ve just got to keep progressing as the season goes,” he said. “It’s a long season and I think our kids are rolling in the right direction here. We’re going to have a lot of games here coming up so we’ve got to keep our legs fresh, get some film in with these guys and and prepare a lot better.”
Ishpeming travels to Manistique (2-4) on Friday while Hancock hosts Baraga (0-7) on Monday.
Hancock won the JV game 57-29.
Email Ryan Spitza at email@example.com.