Jason Waterman matches career high with 31 points in Negaunee Miners’ 78-61 win at Gladstone

Negaunee’s Jason Waterman, right, takes a shot against Gladstone’s Michael Hagebusch in their Mid-Peninsula Conference boys basketball game played Thursday, at the Braves’ gym. (Escanaba Daily Press photo by Justin St. Ours)

GLADSTONE — Negaunee’s Jason Waterman used his skill from the outside to help the Upper Peninsula’s Division 1-3 No. 2 ranked Miners turn a hard-fought first half into a dominating game after intermission and a 78-61 victory at Gladstone Thursday.

Despite an 18-14 lead after the first quarter of the Mid-Peninsula Conference contest, the Braves (5-5, 4-3 M-PC) faced a renewed Miners’ push in the second.

That was led by Waterman, who finished with 31 points to tie his varsity career high.

“We played low energy (in the first quarter),” Miners coach Dan Waterman said. “You’ve got to give Gladstone credit. They jumped all over us. We were down 8-0, and I’m burning timeouts like they’re going out of style.

“It was 100% energy-related. I thought we did a better job as the (first) half progressed — we kind of climbed back into it in the second quarter. Early in the game, we couldn’t make anything because we weren’t playing hard enough.”

Negaunee (10-0, 4-0 M-PC) started taking back the momentum with 4 1/2 minutes left in the half when Waterman sank a triple to cut his team’s deficit to 24-20. After Gladstone’s Cam Ballard responded with a jumper 30 seconds later, Waterman followed with another triple.

“Sometimes you just have to give your team a boost,” Jason Waterman said. “Luckily, the shots were falling tonight, so I just kept pulling, they kept going in and we started playing harder.

“Gladstone’s a good team. We came in here — it’s exam week, we’re thinking about the big matchup with Iron Mountain on Tuesday and there’s a million other things going on back in town — we probably weren’t as focused on the game as we could’ve been. It took us until almost halftime to snap out of it.”

Chas Kumpula hit another 3-pointer with just under a minute left in the half to give Negaunee its first lead at 33-31, but Ballard hit a jumper to tie it 33-33 entering halftime.

“That’s one thing I’m proud of — they kept fighting,” Braves coach Dane Quigley said. “These guys kept trying to come back, and I think earlier in the year (it would’ve affected us more).”

Negaunee started to pull away in the second half, finishing the third quarter on a 14-5 run to take a 53-43 advantage into the fourth period.

Gladstone had an opportunity in the final quarter when Jarret St. John scored inside to cut its deficit to 58-51, but the Braves struggled offensively the rest of the way as Negaunee went 14 for 16 from the free-throw line in the period to seal the game.

Drew Lindberg added 15 points for the Miners, while Drew DuShane collected 13. Jakson Sager finished with 10.

Ballard led the Braves with 20 points and four triples. Noah Ballard added 13, while St. John finished with 11.

“My guys wanted to showcase what they can do, and I think they put on a pretty good display tonight,” Quigley said. “They were looking for the opportunity to compete, and they came out and did it.”

Gladstone, which won the JV game, travels to Ishpeming Tuesday. Negaunee hosts Iron Mountain Tuesday in a showdown of undefeated and the top two Division 1-3 squads in the U.P.