Northern Wisconsin hits game-winning free throw to edge Northern Michigan boys at Border Bash
IRONWOOD — A year after missing much of his junior season because of a broken wrist, Northwestern’s Sam Risley led the Tigers to the state tournament.
The all-stater came up big in Wednesday’s Kiwanis Border Bash also, hitting a pivotal 3 and the game-winning free throw in Northern Wisconsin’s 85-84 win over Northern Michigan Wednesday night.
“His senior year, he put in a ton of work, he got a lot better,” said Nolan Graff, the first-year Northwestern coach, who also coached Northern Wisconsin. “He was definitely the leader of our team. It just showed here. He hasn’t been in the gym as much as he’d like to before the game, but big players make big plays.”
The 3 came with 1:22 left as Risley drilled it from on top, giving Wisconsin an 84-82 lead.
Michigan tied it with about 14 seconds left when Calumet’s Matt Ojala passed to Gladstone’s Reece Castor for a short shot from the side of the rim.
Risley took it to the rim on the ensuing possession and drew a foul with 5.2 on the clock. He split the free throws to put Wisconsin up 85-84.
Wisconsin made it tough on Michigan getting it up court on the following possession. Michigan then lost it out of bounds under its basket with .3 second left and a desperation attempt at a lob didn’t work on the inbounds.
Graff implored his team to play good defense on that final possession.
“We have to find our guys, we have to lock up for one last possession,” he said he told his team. “Down the stretch, I think that was the difference in the game – we got stops.”
Had Michigan had some more time, maybe it could have went for a 3 instead of a lob that Wisconsin had defended pretty well.
“It was either a lob at Reece or Eddy (Polakowski of Ontonagon), a screen the screener play,” said Ironwood’s Pete Lewinski, who was coaching Northern Michigan. “We had a tough time getting it in because they were jamming it.
“If we had .5 left, maybe Mason could have knocked down a shot from the perimeter.”
Outside shooting, though, had been part of their downfall throughout the game.
“Some of the normal shooters’ shots weren’t going in,” Lewinski said. “That happens.”
Mason Saubert of Wakefield-Marenisco had won the 3-point competition at halftime. He also made one 3 in the game itself.
Polakowski finished with 14 points. Tyler Busch of Bessemer made two baskets, Griffen Revoyr of Ironwood hit a free throw.
Carson Thewis of Hurley scored four points for Northern Wisconsin.
“Eddy was good inside,” Lewinski said.
Castor, an All-U.P. Dream Team player who is going to play at Northern Michigan, led all scorers with 21 points and was named MVP despite playing for the losing team. Fellow Dream Teamer Matt Ojala, headed to Michigan Tech, had 16 points.
Lewinski said it was fun to coach.
“I’d like to thank (organizer) Russ Maki for asking me to coach; I’m very humbled and honored to coach,” he said.
Graff, a first-year coach at Northwestern, enjoyed it as well.
“When you can pull guys from all over the state to represent the northern half of Wisconsin and meet a lot of new guys, new talent, it’s just fun to have the camaraderie. Those are relationships that, you never know, could last a lifetime,” he said.
Jon Jurries of Lakeland and Austin Edwards of Phillips both had 11 points for Wisconsin.
Jeven Sachtjen of Manawa won the slam dunk contest. He is the nephew of Mercer boys basketball coach Adam Miller.