Huge sigh of relief: Zach Carlson, Zach Beckman lead Westwood Patriots boys basketball team to Division 3 district title despite big Jeffers Jets comeback

Westwood’s Zach Carlson, center, finds a seam between Jeffers defenders Johnny Schutz, left, and Lance Heinonen as Carlson goes for a layup in the second quarter of their MHSAA Division 3 district tournament championship game played at the Patriots’ gym on Friday. (Photo courtesy Daryl T. Jarvinen)

“When you have two guys who are just committed and bought in as those two are, it makes the coach’s job a whole lot easier.” — Luke Gray, Westwood boys basketball head coach,

on Patriots’ seniors Zach Carlson and Zach Beckman


ISHPEMING — Westwood captured its third boys basketball district title in seven years in front of its home fans on Friday night, but not without a lot of sweating by players, coaches and probably most likely those fans in the final eight minutes.

The Patriots (17-4) played a strong opening three quarters to build what had to look like an insurmountable 53-24 lead.

But that’s when the Jets (18-4) nailed nine triples and scored an amazing 41 points in the fourth quarter to make things dicey late as Westwood hung on for a 76-65 victory.

Jeffers' Kyle Mattila, left, and Levi Frahm, right, battle for position while trying to box out Westwood's Luke Olson in the fourth quarter of their MHSAA Division 3 district tournament championship game played at the Patriots' gym on Friday. (Photo courtesy Daryl T. Jarvinen)

The Jets scored more points on 3-pointers alone in the fourth — 27 points — than they did in all manner and fashion through the first three quarters combined — 24.

Jeffers’ Andrew Kinnunen and Isaiah Frahm each knocked down four 3-pointers in the fourth, capping off a shooting performance for the ages. It ended up being too little, too late, but the many made shots had Westwood coach Luke Gray in awe.

“Honestly, at any level, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a shooting performance like they had in the fourth quarter,” Gray said. “For them to score 41 points in a quarter, I think maybe they missed one or two 3’s, I’d have to look. It wasn’t just one person, it was this person, this person, this person, and they were all hitting.

“But when you are able to play defense like we did for the first three quarters and build ourselves a lead, obviously that helped going into that fourth quarter.”

Westwood’s two star players, Zach Carlson and Zach Beckman, combined for 51 points to topple the Jets in a rematch of last year’s district finals. The Patriots are hard to beat in general, but when the two Zachs are both playing well, they seem almost unbeatable.

Carlson had a game-high 28 points with a balanced attack over all four quarters. Beckman also had a strong game of 23 points, and was a big reason Westwood was able to hang on, making six free throws down the stretch to seal it.

“They’re not afraid to go at somebody and take a shot when we need somebody to take a shot, and to make free throws when you need them to make free throws,” Gray said. “When you have two guys who are just committed and bought in as those two are, it makes the coach’s job a whole lot easier.”

Things couldn’t have gone better for the Pats in the first three quarters when they built a lead of nearly 30 points.

A stout defense enabled them to gain such a big lead against a good Jeffers team. The Jets only had one 3-point make in the first three quarters before they broke loose in the fourth. In the earlier part of the game, Jeffers couldn’t get any good looks in the paint against solid interior defense, and the shots they did make inside were mostly contested.

Westwood looked like an energized team early, jumping out to a 10-2 lead with Carlson and Beckman scoring all 10. The Jets crawled back to within 10-7 with baskets from Frahm and Johnny Schutz, but a Carlson floater and a Garrett Sundberg 3-pointer made it 15-7 after one.

Beckman jump-started the beginning of the second quarter with back-to-back layups, and the Patriots scored the first nine points in the period to take a 24-7 lead. Beckman scored two more baskets in the quarter to lead Westwood, but Carlson and Sundberg also got theirs for a 32-16 halftime lead.

It felt like the first half played out exceptionally well for Westwood, but the third quarter was even better. Marcus Boase chipped in four points, Carlson couldn’t miss from 3-point range, Sundberg was hitting shots and Beckman scored some more. In the blink of an eye like Westwood has done this season, the Patriots are able to go on bigger runs more quickly than most any other team.

The game was getting out of hand fast for the Jets.

“It was fun, we came out and started strong, (we) started the second half really good,” Beckman said. “Then Jeffers had a nice little push, but we (with)stood it and came out with the win. It was a fun time.”

Carlson stole the ball and scored on a layup to give Westwood its largest lead of 31 points to start the fourth.

Jeffers finally started to click offensively, and a 12-1 run led by Schutz and Frahm cut the deficit to 20 with five minutes to go. The Jets had more runs in them, as Tavin Larson made a layup, and Kinnunen made his first 3 to make it 57-41.

What hurt the Jets the most besides their rough first three quarters was foul trouble. The Patriots shot 26 free throws in the fourth because they were in the double bonus for the majority of it.

Another major difference was the disparity in free throws, with Westwood shooting 38 compared to Jeffers’ seven, and the fourth-quarter fouls didn’t help the Jets’ cause. Schutz fouled out with two minutes left, and even though Kinnunen and Frahm combined for seven more 3’s in the final minutes, it just wasn’t enough.

With Carlson and Beckman combining for 51 points, Sundberg came through with 14 to as a key third scorer for the Patriots.

Schutz and Frahm each scored 17 points for Jeffers, while Kinnunen had 12 on four triples.

“It’s a great atmosphere, everyone from the community was out to watch tonight,” Beckman said. “It’s really nice to win in front of a home crowd.”

Westwood advances to the Division 3 regional semifinals and takes on Menominee (19-3) at 7 p.m. today in Escanaba. The time was moved an hour later from what was originally announced, according to a Sunday email from WHS athletic director Jon Beckman.

The Patriots haven’t accomplished all they set out to do this season, but a district title and an undefeated season at home is a good start.

“The job’s not done yet, but to say that we were to win the (Mid-Peninsula Conference), the West PAC conference and a district without losing at home this year, you couldn’t ask for any more than that,” Gray said. “We call it Patriot Country, we take pride in playing in the Patriot Country and inside of the red walls.”

Travis Nelson can be reached by email at tnelson@miningjournal. net.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper *

Starting at $4.62/week.

Subscribe Today