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Johnson’s 34 points too much to handle for Ishpeming boys

Ishpeming's Jacob Kugler, right, rebounds over Iron Mountain's Foster Wonders on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019, in Iron Mountain. (Iron Mountain Daily News photo by Adam Niemi)

IRON MOUNTAIN — Marcus Johnson took over in the third quarter to lead Iron Mountain in a 69-51 win over Ishpeming on Tuesday.

Johnson scored 29 of his 34 points in the second half, including 13 in the third quarter. Johnson hit three consecutive 3-pointers midway through the third to give Iron Mountain a 10-point lead, breaking open a game that was, until that point, a neck and neck battle.

Foster Wonders complemented Johnson with 21 points of his own.

Gavin Sundberg gave Iron Mountain (19-0) fits in the first half, scoring 21 points including four 3-pointers. But a defensive adjustment by Iron Mountain limited him to nothing in the third quarter and he finished with 28 points.

Three of Sundberg’s triples gave the Hematites (5-11) a lead. In the second half, Johnson pressed him and limited his touches.

“I wouldn’t say we were playing bad, it’s just he was playing pretty good,” Iron Mountain head coach Bucky Johnson said of Sundberg. “He broke us in the first half and in the second half we just guarded him a lot better. That was the difference in the game and then of course Marcus scored 29 points in the second half. Marcus took over the game in the second half.”

The Mountaineers outscored Ishpeming 43-23 in the second half. Ishpeming struggled to find a rhythm when IM adjusted defense on Sundberg.

“They did a good job,” Ishpeming head coach Anthony Katona said of Iron Mountain’s defensive adjustment. “These are things we can learn from with the season ending here this week. If we see another team that does that against it, we’ll be more prepared.”

Both teams traded leads six times into the third quarter. A bucket by Wonders gave Iron Mountain a 33-32 lead about half a minute before Johnson’s 3-point barrage from the right wing.

Iron Mountain also mounted four straight defensive stops in that span.

“I thought we played a very hard fought game tonight. We gave Iron Mountain a pretty good scare,” Katona said. “They had to change some things up in the second half. It’s always good to see. I thought we played really hard. We just came out and played basketball. It’s tough to come out because we had a game last night. Tough to prep with back-to-back games like that but proud of the guys and what they achieved tonight.”

With lofty goals of a state finals appearance, the Mountaineers seemed headed for a down-to-the-wire finish with the Hematites until Johnson’s 3-pointers changed the course of the game, opening a 10-point lead with three and a half minutes remaining.

“It wasn’t anything I said or did — he just decided to do it,” Coach Johnson said. “It was a tough game.”

Coach Johnson started Charlie Gerhard (6-foot-3) guarding Darius Yohe (6-8) but later put Wonders (6-5) on him for a better height matchup. Yohe finished with 14 points including seven in the first quarter and five in the fourth after Iron Mountain substituted the starting lineup.

“In the first half our defense in general was terrible. In the second half we put Foster on Darius. Foster guarded Darius for probably two-thirds of the game,” Johnson said. “Foster’s a little longer and able to get his hand up a little higher. Good job on Darius because we don’t face many 6-9 guys with his skill. Darius always plays well against us because he’s a competitive kid.”

Katona said Sundberg’s prolific first-half shooting wasn’t keyed by anything like a scouting nugget or in-game adjustment. It was just Sundberg’s ability to read the game and take advantage of open shots.

“If the open shot’s there, we like to take it. We don’t like to tell kids not to shoot the ball,” Katona said. “I just told them to come out and play basketball. If we don’t have a good look, make them come back and play defense. I thought we did a good job there most of the game. Johnson hit those three 3s in a row and they got a few turnovers off our passes, which broke up the game a little bit. It was tough to come back from that.”

Iron Mountain won the JV game 66-31 and the freshmen game 49-33.

Iron Mountain visits Houghton on Thursday while Ishpeming plays L’Anse.