Foster Wonders leads Iron Mountain back to MHSAA Division 3 semifinals
McBain started out like gangbusters, working its offense and draining perimeter shots. It almost seemed as if the Mountaineers were a tad groggy from the 300-plus-mile bus trip, and McBain was fresh from their short 12-mile trip to its neighboring high school.
Other than a Bryce Pietrantonio steal and layup for the Mountaineers on the Ramblers’ first possession, McBain’s defense made Iron Mountain work hard for the points they got in the first stanza. The Ramblers clogged the lane while also having one or two defenders sag on Wonders when he got the ball.
McBain (16-1) led 19-12 after one quarter.
“Sometimes, until we play a couple of game minutes, it’s hard to find the right matchups defensively,” Iron Mountain head coach Harvey “Bucky” Johnson said. “The switches we made early in the game on defense seemed to help as the game wore on.”
Johnson had to go to his bench early after Caleb Evosevich-Hynes picked up two fouls in the game’s first two minutes and change.
Wonders drained a step-back trey on the Mountaineers’ first possession of the second quarter. After a Ramblers miscue, Wonders swished a fade-away to trim McBain’s seven-point lead to two.
With a tad under two minutes left in the first half, IM tied it 19-19, while Jurgen Kleiman sank one of two free throws to give the Mountaineers their first lead about 30 seconds later. All the while, McBain didn’t score a point in the quarter until the last shot of the stanza.
“The second quarter was huge for us. If we had given up another 19 points like we did in the first, we may have been in trouble,” Johnson said. “We started to contest more shots and our defense got better as the half went on.”
Mason Heuker drained a deep 3-pointer at the buzzer to send the teams into their locker rooms with the score knotted 22-22.
“This has happened to us a few times this season. We’ll be clipping along offensively and then we’ll freeze up,” McBain head coach Bruce Koopman said. “Iron Mountain got more physical, which at this level of the season, it’s what a team should do, and it knocked us back on our heels a little.”
The physicality of the Mountaineers that Koopman referenced is the style of play IM used the majority of the season.
A key to the game, Johnson emphasized, was a seven-point surge the Mountaineers had at the start of the third quarter.
“The two quick buckets and Ricky (Brown) banging the 3, that gave us a lead that ended up 10 at the end of the quarter,” Johnson said.
Throughout the final quarter, McBain battled back, but in the end Wonders’ scoring and the Mountaineers’ defense was too much to overcome.
The Mountaineers were playing early Thursday afternoon at the Breslin Center in Breslin Center against 19-1 Schoolcraft. They were going for back-to-back trips to the state finals, since last year’s tourney ended early in the districts when the coronavirus pandemic hit.
“Wonders is a terrific player. On top of him and his experience, Iron Mountain has a handful of guys with experience from their run two years ago. That’s something we’re lacking, but our kids didn’t back down or quit,” Koopman said.