IRON RIVER—When you run into a good basketball player who goes white-hot on you, there’s not much an opposing team can do.
That’s was West Iron County’s unlucky fate in the boys’ season opener at Westwood Dec. 5. The Wykons led 25-20 at halftime but couldn’t hold off the Patriots in the second half and lost 52-48.
Blame Zach French for that. French scored 12 points in the first half and went off in the third quarter, adding 17. He finished the night with 36 points, including seven three-pointers.
“He just lit it up,” said WIC Coach Dan Schive. “At times we didn’t get through the double and triple screens correctly. And when we did, sometimes he’s just step back” and fire. Boom! The Wykons used several different defenders on French, but it didn’t have much effect.
The game started well for West Iron, which led 10-3 in the first quarter. But Schive said they missed several shots they should have made and went 0 for 5 at the free throw line. “If we make shots early, it could have been a whole lot different.”
Free throws were Westwood’s lifeline in the first half. The Patriots made 6 of 7 in the first quarter and 4 of 8 in the second, when they hit their first baskets. West Iron led 25-20 at hafltime.
In the third quarter, French was lights out, hitting five threes and a two.
“It was just one of those nights when a guy gets red-hot,” Schive said, “and there’s not a whole lot you can do.” The Wykons could have shifted to a 2-3 zone, he said, “But we’re going to play man, so you’ve got to learn to play man.”
The game was tied 41-41 after three, but Westwood had the momentum and played keep-away with the ball in the fourth quarter. West Iron missed a few more breakaways “that we should have had.”
At the other end, French added two twos and another three to guide Westwood to the win. He finished with 36 of his team’s 52 points. Aside from him, the Patriots only hit one two-pointer and one three-pointer from the field. Everything else was free throws (16 of 24).
Adam Newby led West Iron in scoring with 12, with 10 from Caleb Pellizzer, eight by Kahree Beaudrie and six by Ryan Richard.
Coach Schive said he liked the way Newby, Tyler Stafford, Richard and Jordan Davis played.
He also liked the Wykons’ rebounding. Beaudrie led with nine boards, and Richard had six. Beaudrie added four steals and four blocks, and Newby also had four steals.
Remember that Schive’s philosophy is that the regular season merely sets the stage for the district tournament season. “It’s more fun to win,” he said. “It keeps people happy. But in order to get better, you’ve got to know what you’re not doing well.”
He didn’t sound worried. “We’ve got a couple of issues we’ve got to fix, but we’ll be fine.”
• The Wykons visited Forest Park Dec. 12 and open their home season Dec. 15 against L’Anse.
After visiting Houghton Dec. 19, West Iron wraps up 2011 with a pair of home games: Norway on Dec. 22 and Escanaba on Dec. 29.
Wykons 10 15 16 7 -- 48
Patriots 6 14 21 11 -- 52