First time ever: Munising boys basketball makes downstate trip to MHSAA Division 4 semifinals with 52-43 quarterfinal win over Jeffers

Munising’s Kane Nebel leaps for joy after he was fouled in the final few seconds of the contest during an MHSAA Division 4 quarterfinal boys basketball game played against Jeffers at Lakeview Memorial Gymnasium in Negaunee on Tuesday. (Photo courtesy Cara Kamps)

NEGAUNEE — Munising climbed the mountain and came out on top in the battle of the Upper Peninsula’s best small-school teams on Tuesday evening at Lakeview Memorial Gymnasium in Negaunee.

Actually the battle had become a matchup of the two best teams in the state of Michigan for these size schools.

The Mustangs are making their first ever boys basketball trip to the Breslin Center at Michigan State University — or for that matter, any other venue the state semifinals and finals have ever been held — after defeating Jeffers 52-43 in an MHSAA Division 4 quarterfinal game.

Munising was making a road trip downstate Wednesday to face Marine City Cardinal Mooney at 5:30 p.m. today in the semifinals in East Lansing. They are one of four teams remaining in D-4, joining Frankfort and Wyoming Tri-unity Christian.

“I thought the regional finals felt good, but this is just the icing on the cake,” Mustangs head coach Terry Kienitz said. “This is just an unbelievable feeling. So happy for the team, so happy for the community.

Jeffers’ Ashton Kunishige, right, looks for a way around Munising defender Carson Kienitz during their MHSAA Division 4 quarterfinal boys basketball game played at Lakeview Memorial Gymnasium in Negaunee on Tuesday. (Photo courtesy Cara Kamps)

“We’ve had such great fan support this year and this team has worked so hard…. We dealt with a lot of injuries, a lot of adversity this year, so for them to … pull off this win today, it feels great.”

The Jets had been ranked the No. 1 team for at least the last month of the season by the U.P. Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association in its weekly poll, while Munising had been No. 2.

Both had also been top 10 in the weekly state polls conducted by The Associated Press, culminating in their 1-2 rankings — Jeffers again No. 1 — in the final AP poll at the beginning of this month.

The Jets entered the game at 25-1 and Munising at 24-1, but it’s only the Mustangs that leave with that “one” in the loss column intact as they improved to 25-1.

“We had a heck of a season, the best season we had ever,” Jeffers head man John Schutz said. “We didn’t want it to end that way, but somebody’s gotta win, somebody’s gotta lose, and Munising … played their butts off tonight.

“Hats off to them, they came to play and they hit more shots.”

Munising’s Kane Nebel led all scorers with 20 points as teammate Jack Dusseault added 17.

Ashton Kunishige led Jeffers’ scorers with 17 points, just as he did a week ago in the D-4 regional championship game over Stephenson that was played at the same venue.

Levi Frahm added 13 points to the Jets’ cause, while Matthew Schutz had nine.

The game opened with a bit of foreshadowing for the entire night after Munising won the opening tipoff, even with Jeffers scoring the game’s first points.

The Jets kept the lead throughout the quarter, ending it up 13-9.

The second quarter was just as exciting with the Jets maintaining their advantage, but not by much.

To the sound of intense cheers from both sides of the gymnasium, Munising pulled within two points at the break, 22-20.

“We were only down two and I felt we didn’t play that great in the first half,” Kienitz said about the small deficit at intermission. “I feel like if we run our offensive sets, we’re gonna get layups.

“We kinda lost our guys (on defense) a few times, let them get open looks and against a good team like this, it just can’t happen.”

Right out the gate to start the third quarter, Dusseault scored to even out the score 22-22.

Despite a timeout by Schutz, the Mustangs soon took their first lead of the night, ending the quarter ahead 34-30.

And roars from the Munising fans were stronger than ever.

“These parents are something else,” Kienitz said. “Team meals and rides and offering a hand whenever, they’ve been all in with this team this year.”

The fourth was chock-full of halfcourt passes, stealing the ball in midair and desperately trying to achieve a rebound after every missed shot.

But Jeffers was forced to go to a desperation strategy of fouling Munising down the stretch. Actually, it didn’t look like desperation, considering the Mustangs had only made 3 of 12 free throws in the first three quarters.

But led by Nebel and Trevor Nolan, MHS made 14 of 20 in the final eight minutes. Nebel was 6 of 8 in the fourth, while Nolan, who finished with eight points, was 6 of 9.

In all, Munising made barely 50 percent at the line, 17 of 32, but it was enough to get the win.

Jeffers was a respectable 14 of 20 at the line, including 6 of 9 in the fourth. Though the Jets won the 3-point battle 5-1, it didn’t compare to the 13 the Jets made a week earlier against Stephenson.

Alexandria Bournonville can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. Her email address is abournonville@miningjournal.net.


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