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Iron Mountain holds off Schoolcraft in overtime in MHSAA Division 3 semifinals

From left, Iron Mountain’s Dante Basanese knocks the ball away from Schoolcraft’s Bryce VanderWiere as the downstate team's Tyler DeGroote looks on during an MHSAA Division 3 semifinal game played at the Breslin Center in East Lansing on Thursday. (Photo courtesy Jason Juno, Ironwood Daily Globe)

EAST LANSING — Iron Mountain made it back to the MHSAA Division 3 boys basketball state championship game by defeating Schoolcraft 54-50 in overtime Thursday at the Breslin Center on the Michigan State University campus.

The Mountaineers, who improved to 19-0 with the win, were facing Flint Beecher (15-1) on Saturday afternoon.

Iron Mountain senior Foster Wonders led all scorers with 34 points, including 14 in the fourth quarter, as the physical game was nip and tuck throughout.

“I think today was a heck of a game. Both teams played really hard,” veteran Mountaineers head coach Harvey “Bucky” Johnson said. “Schoolcraft is well coached and they were well prepared.

“We got outrebounded today and give them credit for that, but we did rebound the ball better in the second half. I am very happy with our free throw shooting in the overtime.”

Foster Wonders, right, elevates for a shot over Schoolcraft's Bryce VanderWiere, center, as the downstate team's Jonathon Abel, left, and Ty Rykse, bottom, follow the play during an MHSAA Division 3 boys basketball semifinal game played at Michigan State University's Breslin Center in East Lansing on Thursday. (Photo courtesy Jason Juno, Ironwood Daily Globe)

Schoolcraft (19-2) came out in an effective zone defense. The Eagles had several players with height and size, which enabled them to match the physicality of the Mountaineers.

“They’re all big guys,” Wonders said. “They made it hard for us to do anything. Even their guards were physical and played bigger than they actually are.”

Schoolcraft also had an additional defender sagging over to help defend Wonders each time he got the ball. Iron Mountain was in its customary man-to-man defense.

Offensively, the Mountaineers played their style in the first quarter, working the ball around the perimeter, trying to find seams in the Eagles’ defense. Iron Mountain took a four-point advantage into the second period.

There were 12 lead changes and four ties in the game as Schoolcraft tightened up its defense starting in the second quarter.

The Eagles took their first lead with 3:18 remaining in the first half on a layup by Bryce VanderWiere, whose double-double of 15 points and 10 rebounds led Schoolcraft.

But the Mountaineers regained the lead 16 seconds before halftime, 18-17, when Wonders drained a 3-pointer.

In the beginning moments of the final regulation period, Schoolcraft built its biggest lead at eight points before IM began it comeback and actually retook the lead 40-38 with 2:10 remaining on a Wonders trey, doubling that lead with a Jurgen Kleiman shot from close in.

Then with 27 seconds remaining in regulation, Jonathan Able of Schoolcraft tied the game 42-42 with a layup, still giving the Mountaineers one more chance to win in regulation.

Twelve seconds into overtime, a Kleiman layup — after another sharp pass from Bryce

Pietrantonio — gave the Mountaineers a lead they would never relinquish. In fact, IM’s largest lead of the contest was seven points with 2:03 left in overtime.

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